b. 21/12/1822 Romsey, Hampshire. d. 23/11/1896 Portsea, Hampshire.
Henry Curtis (1822-1896) was born on 21st December 1822 at Romsey, Hampshire, the son of Robert Curtis, a carpenter. He joined the Royal Navy as a Boy, 2nd Class at HMS Victory in 1841, at the age of 18. He went on to serve on HMS Rodney and HMS Ringdove, in the middle of which, he was posted to the Crimea as part of the Naval Brigade.
On 18th June 1855, during the assault on the Redan, a soldier of the 57th Regiment of Foot, who had been wounded in both legs, was observed sitting up and calling for help. At once the second in command of the scaling party (Henry James Raby), another seaman (John Taylor) and Boatswain’s Mate Curtis left the shelter of their battery works and ran forward a distance of 70 yards, across open ground, under heavy enemy fire, and succeeded in carrying the wounded man to safety.
Following the end of the Crimean War, Curtis joined the Coast Guard Service in 1856, and on 7th February that year, he married Maria, daughter of William Morley, a brewer, at St Mary’s Church, Alverstoke, Hampshire. They would go on to have four children, Henry William (born 1857), Maria (born 1859), Charlotte (born 1872) and Mabel (born 1877).
On 24th February 1857, Curtis was one of the first group of men along with Raby and Taylor to be gazetted for the Victoria Cross. He would be present at the first investiture at Hyde Park on 26th June that year, and personally received his medal from Queen Victoria. Curtis ended his naval career aboard HMS Marlborough in 1864. Following his service in the Navy, he was employed as a Quartermaster on a cross-channel steamer sailing from Southampton.
Curtis died at his home, 4 Stirling Street, Portsea, Hampshire on 23rd November 1896, aged 73. He was buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth. His wife was later buried with him on her death in 1919. In 1997, a new headstone was erected on the site of his grave, with the service attended by Eric Wilson VC, representing the VC and GC Association. His Victoria Cross and Crimean Medal with two clasps were sold at Spinks on 27th April 1999 for £35,000. They were purchased by the Ashcroft Trust and are now displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
KINGSTON CEMETERY, PORTSEA, HAMPSHIRE. LIGHTS 88, BLOCK 10, GRAVE 22
Henry Curtis' medals including VC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
January 2015 courtesy of John Sharrock