|Date of Birth||September 12, 1896|
|Place of Birth||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Susan Curtis (mother), Dauphin, Manitoba|
|Trade / Calling||Railway man|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||Dauphin, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||February 24, 1916|
|Age at Enlistment||19|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||November 28, 1916|
|Age at Death||20|
|Buried At||Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, France|
Private Howard Winfred Curtis enlisted in February 1916 and served in France with the 8th Battalion. He was wounded at the Battle of the Somme and died in November 1916.
Howard was the youngest son of Susan Tomlin and Charles William Curtis. Charles was born in Manitoba and grew up in Portage la Prairie. When the 1891 census was taken he was 18 years old and an apprentice to a tinsmith. He was living in Portage la Prairie with his mother Cecilia, stepfather William Gilbert, a farmer, and William’s son Amos, age 12. Howard’s mother Susan Tomlin was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1876. Her parents had emigrated from England about three years earlier. They spent some time in Ontario then moved to Portage la Prairie where they took up farming. 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
By the time of the 1901 census 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. Living nearby was her sister Emma with her husband Frederick Ross and their two children. Not long 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 for 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 volunteered for service early in the war and went overseas in October 1914 with the First Canadian Contingent. Howard enlisted on 24 February 1916, signing up in Winnipeg with the 45th Battalion. He was still living in Dauphin at the time, with his occupation listed as railway man and his mother Susan as next of kin. A few weeks after he enlisted his unit left for the east coast, embarking from Halifax on 13 March and arriving in England about eleven days later. At the end of April Howard injured his knee and he spent a week in the hospital. In mid-June he was drafted to a front line unit, the 8th Battalion (90th Winnipeg Rifles), and sent to France. He joined his new battalion in the field later that month, just after the Battle of Mount Sorrel.
The Somme Offensive started on 1 July 1916 and the Canadian Corps began moving to the Somme area in August. The 8th Battalion arrived near Albert on 2 September and they had a couple of rotations in the front and support trenches. Their first offensive operation was the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, which took place between the villages of Thiepval and Courcelette. The assault began at 12:35 pm on 26 September and Howard’s unit, on the far left flank of the Canadian Corps, advanced over the highest part of the ridge against heavy machine gun and artillery fire. The battalion reached its objectives, Zollern and Hessian trenches, but they were not completely secured until the following day. The men were relieved on 28 September and the war diary for the 8th Battalion recorded 446 casualties in the three days of fighting. Howard was one of the casualties on the first day, suffering a shell or gunshot wound to his left leg.
Howard was taken to No. 5 Canadian Field Ambulance then transferred to No. 23 Casualty Clearing Station, where he died of his wounds on 28 November. He is buried in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery in France. Sadly, his brother Clarence had died in England exactly four months earlier, after a lengthy illness.
Susan and her sister Emma Ross both moved to Vancouver during the war. Susan was married there on 19 September 1918. Her husband, Duncan Alexander McLean, was a widower with two sons. Duncan passed away in North Vancouver in 1961 and Susan in 1964. They are buried in North Vancouver Cemetery.
Howard and Clarence are both 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. Howard is also remembered on the Canadian National Railway Roll of Service: ‘Canada’s National Railways: Their Part in the War.’
By Becky Johnson
The two photos of the Dauphin War Memorial are courtesy of Gordon Goldsborough, Manitoba Historical Society.