Kenora Great War Project


Personal Details
Date of BirthAugust 1, 1895
Place of BirthWinnipeg, Manitoba
Marital StatusSingle
Next of KinMrs. Susan Curtis (mother), Dauphin, Manitoba
Trade / CallingBanker
Service Details
Regimental Number255
Service Record Link to Service Record
BattalionRoyal Canadian Dragoons
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Cavalry
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentValcartier, Quebec
Address at EnlistmentDauphin, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentSeptember 24, 1914
Age at Enlistment19
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarNo
Death Details
Date of DeathJuly 28, 1916
Age at Death20
Buried AtTowcester Road Cemetery, Northampton, England

Curtis, Clarence William

Trooper Clarence William Curtis enlisted shortly after the war started and served in France with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. He died of illness in England in July 1916 and his only brother died of wounds four months later.

Clarence was the oldest son of Susan Tomlin and Charles William Curtis. Susan was born in 1876 in Hamilton, Ontario and moved to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba with her family as a child. Her parents had emigrated from England in the early 1870s and her father was a farmer. Her husband, Charles William Curtis, was born in Manitoba. He lost his father at a young age and grew up in Portage la Prairie with his mother Cecilia and stepfather William Gilbert, a farmer. Charles and Susan were married in Winnipeg in October 1894, when she was 18 years old. They had two sons, Clarence William (1 August 1895) and Howard Winfred (12 September 1896), both born in Winnipeg. Charles was a tinsmith and they lived at 570 Balmoral Avenue.

When the 1901 census was taken Susan and the two boys were living in Rat Portage (now called Kenora), in northwestern Ontario. Susan was listed as a widow, although no record of her husband’s death has been found. In the household next door was her sister Emma with her husband Frederick Ross and their two children. Sometime after that Susan moved to Dauphin, Manitoba and became a Trained Nurse. Her parents lived in the nearby town of Gilbert Plains. An item in the Dauphin newspaper in October 1905 noted that Dr. Gunne had just arrived from Kenora and Nurse Curtis was leaving that week for Kenora. When the 1906 census was taken Clarence and Howard were living in Dauphin with their aunt and uncle, Mary Jane (nee Tomlin) and Thomas Hall. Susan was back in Dauphin by the time of the 1911 census, with her two boys at home. For several years before and during the war she operated a maternity home and advertised in the Dauphin newspaper as a Trained Nurse.

Clarence turned 19 years old on 1 August 1914 and the war started three days later. Volunteers were told to enroll with their local militia before heading to Valcartier, Quebec, where the First Canadian Contingent was being assembled. Clarence signed up with the 32nd Manitoba Horse in Dauphin and began training with the other local recruits. On 21 August there was a huge farewell gala in town and the volunteers left for Valcartier the next morning. Clarence had his medical at Valcartier on 29 August and he attested on 24 September, signing up with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. He listed his mother in Dauphin as next of kin and his occupation as banker. His unit embarked for England at the beginning of October in a convoy of 32 transport ships and arrived in Plymouth two weeks later. The recruits trained on Salisbury Plain in southern England for several months and in February 1915 the Dragoons became part of Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

Clarence arrived in France with his unit on 4 May 1915 and the troops served as dismounted infantry for the next eight months. Clarence became ill in early December 1915 and he was admitted to a field ambulance then sent to a casualty clearing station. On 9 December he was moved by ambulance train to No. 11 General Hospital in Boulogne, where he was diagnosed with a kidney ailment. He was evacuated to England on the hospital ship Jan Breydel and admitted to the General Hospital in Northampton on 20 December. He suffered from nephritis and despite a variety of treatments over the next few months his health did not improve. He passed away at the hospital on 28 July 1916. His brother Howard had enlisted earlier that year and he was in France when Clarence died.

Clarence’s funeral with full military honours was held at Towcester Road Cemetery on 1 August, which would have been his 21st birthday. It was attended by two of his Tomlin relatives from London as well as Canadian soldiers and hospital staff. Sadly, Howard died in France just four months later, of wounds received at the Battle of the Somme.

Susan moved to Vancouver during the war and she was married again on 19 September 1918. Her husband, Duncan Alexander McLean, was born in Toronto and worked as a printer. He was a widower with two sons, Roy and Alexander. Susan’s sister Emma Ross from Kenora had also moved to Vancouver around the same time. Susan and her family were living in North Vancouver when she received the Memorial Crosses for her sons, as well as their medals, scrolls and plaques. Clarence was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Duncan died in North Vancouver in August 1961 and Susan followed in January 1964, at age 87. They are both buried at North Vancouver Cemetery.

Clarence and Howard are commemorated on the Dauphin War Memorial and in Canada’s First World War Book of Remembrance, displayed in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

By Becky Johnson

The two photos of the Dauphin War Memorial are courtesy of Gordon Goldsborough, Manitoba Historical Society.

Gravemarker photo courtesy of the Commonwealth Roll of Honour Project.

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