Special thanks to Brian Curtis, grandson of Arthur, for contributing this post. Brian and #TeamPeirs met in person in March 2018 in the fields surrounding Le Verguier, France. Eventually, we all got our bearings and worked to locate different sites and battalion positions.
Name & Rank:
Private Arthur Curtis
Birth date & Location
21st August 1898 in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, UK
William and Ellen Curtis
Arthur Curtis was born in the small Hertfordshire town of Cheshunt on 31 August 1898. The fifth son of William and Ellen Curtis. Shortly after his birth the family moved to 77 Rye Street in the market town of Bishops Stortford, also in County of Hertfordshire. The 1901 England Census Return for 1901 records his father’s profession as a labourer.
The 1911 National Census Return show that the family had expanded with the birth of another brother and sister. All of the children attended the local school until they reached the age of 14 when they started work.
Before the outbreak of War Arthur Curtis worked for the Great Eastern Railway Company as a Porter at Bishops Stortford Railway Station.
All 5 brothers served in the Army during the Great War. His elder twin brothers, Thomas & William, served in the Royal Field Artillery. They had both volunteered at the outbreak of the hostilities (in 1914). The third brother, Private Ernest Curtis, was killed in action on 23rd September 1916 whilst serving with the 1/6th Northumberland Fusiliers (149th Brigade, 50th Northumbrian Division) during the support action to capture High Wood (Battle of Flers/Courcelette). The fourth brother, Harry Curtis, served briefly with the Hertfordshire Regiment before being discharged as unfit for further war service.
After his discharge from the Army, he returned to his old job as a Railway Porter and remained working on the railway serving eventually as a Passenger Guard until his retirement in 1963.
He married Annie Jordon on the 25th November 1922 and the authors father, also named Arthur, was born in 1923.
He died on 13th November 1970
The author had the pleasure of meeting researchers from the University when they visited the village of Le Verguier on 21st March 2018, sharing photographs and stories with local villagers – 100 years to the day when Arthur and many of his comrades of the 8th Queens were taken prisoner, wounded or killed, and when the village was completely destroyed due to enemy action.
According to the Certificate of Discharge Arthur Curtis was Attested on the 30th August 1916 on his eighteenth birthday. Attestation was a scheme introduced by the Earl of Derby for those of fighting age to indicate their public willingness to serve when called upon to do so. It predated the compulsory Military Service which was approved by Parliament in 1916. Arthur was eventually called for Service (Mobilised) on 14th February 1917 reporting to the 29th Training Reserve.
It has not been possible to obtain any further official information on his Service History up to the point when he was taken prisoner on the first day of the German Spring Offensive (Kaiserchlacht) on the 21st March 1918.
Arthur served with No1 Section, 6th Platoon ‘B’ Company, 8th Battalion Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment.
According to the Unit War Diary on the 18th March 1918 the Battalion relieved the 1st Royal Fusiliers in the Vendelles – Le Verguier Sector, North-East of St Quentin part of the 17th Brigade in the 24th Division of the British Fifth Army. Established accounts record that the front line was thinly held.
C & A Companies of the Battalion occupied outposts in the forward zone. C Company establishing their HQ at Shepherds Copse while HQ A Company was situated at Graham Post later moving to Grand Priel Farm Crater. Companies D & B held strong points in and around the village of Le Verguier.
A strong point described as Fort Bull on the outer edge of the Village was occupied by members of B Company which we assume to have included Pte Arthur Curtis, a member of 6th Platoon.
The enemy offensive (commenced at about 4.30 A.M on the 21st March 1918) with an intense bombardment of Le Verguier and the back areas. The forward outposts were quickly overrun and by 10.30 the village itself became under attack. It was during this period that Pte Arthur Curtis became a prisoner of war.
Copies of Records obtained from the Red Cross state that he was taken prisoner on 22 March 1918 (although this is likely to be when he was processed behind the front lines) and that he arrived at Munster II POW Camp on 24 April 1918 some 4 weeks after his capture.
News of his capture was received by his parents in April 1918 and a brief news report appeared in the local newspaper in May.
Records of other soldiers taken prisoner at this time indicate that they initially served in working parties behind the lines. Many experienced harsh treatment, including Arthur Curtis, whose back was pot-marked by numerous bayonet scars resulting from forced labour and marches.
Personal family accounts mention an escape and recapture resulting in a lengthy solitary confinement in chicken shed so small he was unable to stand. These accounts were told at a time before the author became interested and unfortunately were never confirmed or additional details obtained.
Regimental Records have details of all those taken prisoner in 1918. The entries for Arthur Curtis show that he was ‘receiving parcels’ in the Prison Camp and that he was ‘very pleased’.
It has not been possible to locate records relating to his release from Munster following the Armistice or on his return home. The local newspaper carried a number of accounts of local men returning home from POW camps, but no information has been traced regarding Arthur Curtis. This suggests that his return was delayed for medical reasons as personal accounts indicate that he was extremely emaciated on his return and much changed in his appearance. Such that, according again to family accounts, on his arrival at his home railway station he was unrecognised by his parents but was warmly greeted by the family dog.
Transcript of interviews with captured ‘other ranks’ from the Regiment indicate a level of harsh treatment by their captors
Regimental records relating to POW contain a manuscript note ‘Home’.
There is no trace of any awards for bravery or distinguished action. Arthur was Transferred to the Army Reserve (Home Defence only) on 23rd October 1919 with the Medical Category of B2 (Able to stand service on lines of communication) confirming the medical effects from his captivity
The date of the picture displayed above is unknown. It shows Arthur well-nourished and is unlikely to have been taken after his release from captivity. The display of the wound stripe on his left arm suggests that he was involved in action prior to his unit transfer to the Le Verguier sector but no service records can be traced to assist with this account.
13th November 1970
 Army Form Z.21. Serial 10335
 Herts & Essex Observer published 4 May 1918 page 4
 WO/161/100/565 No 2814 Account of Private 63916 Charles Bloomfield 8th Queens taken POW 21.3.1916
 Personal account