Herbert Franklin (Bert) CURNOW

CURNOW, Herbert Franklin

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 28 April 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 22nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Kangaroo Flat, Victoria, Australia, 9 January 1893
Home Town: Bendigo, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Kangaroo Flat State School, Victoria, Australia and Duntroon Military College, Canberra Australia Capital Territory, Australia
Occupation: Defence Department Records clerk
Died: Killed In Action , Pozieres, France, 5 August 1916, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Courcelette British Cemetery
Plot VII, Row B, Grave No. 9
Memorials: Kangaroo Flat Soldiers Memorial, South Melbourne Great War Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

28 Apr 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, Officer, 22nd Infantry Battalion, Melbourne, Victoria
10 May 1915: Involvement 22nd Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '14' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Ulysses embarkation_ship_number: A38 public_note: ''
10 May 1915: Embarked 22nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ulysses, Melbourne
5 Aug 1916: Involvement Captain, 22nd Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: awm_unit: 22 Battalion awm_rank: Captain awm_died_date: 1916-08-05

Help us honour Herbert Franklin Curnow's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by John Edwards

"Herbert Franklin Curnow was born at Kangaroo Flat Victoria on 9 January 1893 to parents Herbert and Janet. A clerk by trade, he enlisted in Melbourne on 30 April 1915 at the age of 22. Curnow departed Melbourne as a second lieutenant with the 22nd Infantry Battalion on 10 May 1915.

Curnow served at Gallipoli with the 22nd Infantry Battalion and during the course of 1915 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and then captain. He was evacuated in early December 1915 due to a septic hand injury. Curnow later re-joined his unit and was sent to the Western Front during March 1916. Herbert Curnow was 23 years old when he was killed in action at Pozieres on 5 August 1916 and he is buried at Courcelette British Cemetery, France." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)


Biography contributed by Stephen Brooks

“Standing thus their attention fixed on the advancing line, the troops on the left were not at first aware that they were being sniped with deadly effect by a handful of Germans lying in shell holes about forty yards in advance of O.G.2 where Brind's Road ran through. It happened that Captain Curnow saw a well-known man of his company, Private Vienna, formerly a football supporter of Geelong, killed by one of these snipers. Exclaiming “I’ll get the chap who did that,” and drawing his revolver on the German, this beloved leader too was shot dead.”

Bean- Volume III – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916, The Taking and Holding of the Pozieres Heights, page 695-696


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Francois Berthout

Captain Herbert Franklin Curnow,
22nd Australian Infantry Battalion, C Company,
6th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division AIF
More than a hundred years ago, the fields of the Somme, red with blood, were for a whole generation of young boys, a hell on earth never seen before, a nightmare from which it was impossible for them to hide and in the mud, under the mournful howl of the shells, held the front line with exemplary bravery and side by side, united in the strongest bond of camaraderie, found the strength to live one more day and to face this apocalypse so that the light of peace can pierce through the darkness that made the world sink into the madness of a war that led a whole generation of men to death who awaited them under the fire of the machine guns that they bravely charged with as their only weapons their bayonets and their faith which guided them to do what was right on these sacred fields of northern France where so many heroes today rest in peace standing side by side in the eternal and solemn silence of the poppies , eternal symbols of the courage and sacrifices of these young men to whom we owe so much and over whom I will watch over forever with the deepest respect.

Today, it is with the deepest gratitude and with the utmost respect that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, of one of my boys of the Somme who, in France, gave his life for our tomorrow.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Captain Herbert Franklin Curnow who fought in the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion, C Company, 6th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division of the Australian Imperial Force, and who was killed in action 107 years ago, on August 5, 1916 at the age of 23 during the Battle of the Somme.

Herbert Franklin Curnow, who was very affectionately called "Bert", was born on January 9, 1893 in Kangaroo Flat, Victoria, and was the son of Herbert Benjamin Robert Curnow (1868-1949), and Janet Curnow (née Carrey, 1863- 1941), of 150 Banks Street, South Melbourne, Victoria. He had three sisters, Florence Edith Curnow (1894-1969), Janet White Curnow (1898-1965), Amy Beatrice Curnow (1902-1969), and one brother, Leslie Shaw Curnow (1897-1971). In 1907, he was the 10th student to be enrolled at what was then the Bendigo Continuation School, soon to become the Bendigo District High School. His brother Leslie and two of his sisters, Florence and Janet, also attended the school between 1908 and 1913. After leaving Bendigo High, Bert received an appointment as junior teacher at Quarry Hill School in Bendigo. He moved to Melbourne in 1911 where he obtained work as a pay clerk at the Defense Department in Victoria Barracks, St Kilda Road. During that time he also attended several army training camps. He joined the military forces in the 8th Australian Infantry Regiment and transferred to the 56th Infantry rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He was selected to attend the Duntroon Military College where he topped his class. He also passed brilliantly at the Officers school at Broadmeadows in 1915 and was engaged to marry Emma Gilbert but their wedding was postponed when he enlisted.

Herbert enlisted on April 28, 1915 at Melbourne, Victoria, as a Second Lieutenant in the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion, C Company, which was raised at Broadmeadows Camp, Victoria, on March 26, 1915. On May 1, Bert was promoted to the rank of Captain and after a short training period of less than a month at Broadmeadows Camp, embarked with his unit from Melbourne, on board HMAT A38 Ulysses on May 10, 1915 and sailed for the Gallipoli Peninsula.
On August 30, 1915, after a quick stop in Egypt, Herbert and the 22nd Battalion were disembarked at Gallipoli and played a defensive role in the northern sector of ANZAC Cove until evacuation in mid-December, but Bert, who fell ill, was evacuated before the rest of his unit to the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Ghezireh, Egypt, where he was admitted on December 13 suffering from septic sores, was discharged to duty on February 3,1916 and the same day, marched for the Overseas Base then joined his unit on February 24 and fought for the defense of the Suez Canal and on March 19, joined the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in Alexandria and proceeded overseas for France.

On March 26, 1916, after a week on the peaceful waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Herbert arrived in France and was disembarked in Marseilles then from there,with his unit, embarked by train for Roquetoire, in the Pas-De-Calais, where they arrived on March 29 then on April 4, marched through Haverskerque, Sailly-Sur-La-Lys and reached Fleurbaix on April 7, an area known as "The Nursery", a quiet area where newly arrived Brigades were conditioned to the intricacies of trench warfare on the Western Front. It was during this first period in the trenches that on April 21, Herbert was admitted to the 7th Field Ambulance suffering from "fractured internal malcolns" then was transferred to the 24th General Hospital in Etaples on April 24 suffering from sprained ankle. After recovering, he marched for the 2nd Australian Divisional Base Depot on May 6 and joined his unit in early June at Erquinghem (Hauts-De-France) where the 22nd Battalion was employed in fatigue parties consisting of digging lines of communication and the laying of telephone cables between Rue Marle and La Rolanderie and on June 10, joined the front line at Bois-Grenier where they relieved the 28th Australian Infantry Battalion and fought here, under the fire of German artillery (particularly severe in this sector) until 3 July, when the 22nd Battalion was relieved by the 1st Battalion of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade and marched into billets at Maison Blanche where they remained until July 7.

On July 8, 1916, Herbert and the 22nd Battalion left Blanche Maison and marched for Rouge Croix then for Renescure from where they embarked by train for the Somme and arrived in the quiet village of Breilly on July 11 and underwent a period of training there,including bayonet fights, musketry exercises, practiced attacks in open ground, exercises which gave the men of the 22nd a glimpse that a battle was in preparation and could already hear in the distance the deadly artillery fire whose thunder and lightning streaked the horizon above the battlefields then on July 17, marched through Rainneville, Puchevillers, and arrived at Lealvillers where they were billeted until July 25,then the next day moved to Albert, entered the trenches of the "Sausage Valley" and on July 27, joined the front line of a battle which was a hell on earth never seen before, a nightmare of blood, guts, shells and flames that swept away thousands of young lives in the barbed wire, a battle whose name remains engraved as a synonym of bravery and sacrifice through which young Australian soldiers and the whole Australian Imperial Force fought with bravery and heroism,the Battle of Pozieres.

The village of Pozieres was an extremely sought after position from the earliest days of British planning for the great Somme Offensive of 1916. The village sat on a ridge which gave the Germans a view over Allied lines and sheltered their second line of defence from Allied observation. Through gaining control of Pozières Ridge, the British would reverse this situation. They would overlook the German lines while concealing their own positions from German observation. The heights around Pozières were also critical, both for when fighting became stalled in a static battle of attrition and as a jumping-off position should a more substantial advance become possible. At this point in the battle, the Australians were not yet involved. The battle was mainly between the British and German forces.

On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 3rd Corps of the British Fourth Army was ordered to attack through Pozières and beyond to the fortified position at Mouquet Farm. The British strategy at the first attempt at Pozieres Ridge focused on the seizure of the ridge east of Pozières village from where an attack could be mounted on German strongholds further north at Thiepval. However the attack failed to reach its objectives. The soldiers of the Fourth Army who made it to the first line of German trenches were given no chance to take over the village and were resisted immediately. Attempts to capture Pozières by the Fourth Army over the following days and weeks also ended in failure.

Halfway through July, the focus of the Fourth Army’s operations had changed. The strategy changed from the original plan from July 1. Along with the newly-created Reserve Army, which was ordered to keep pace with the Fourth Army, the two divisions would approach either side of Pozieres, each without advancing too far beyond the neighbouring formation. However, this strategy was not aggressive enough for the proactive Lieutenant General Hubert Gough. Since the very beginning of the operation Gough was full of initiative. He wanted to make an attempt on Pozieres. He soon gained approval to do this, and would use the 1 Anzac Corps, which soon occupied the line close to the boundary with the Fourth Army, to Due to his rash nature and impatience to demonstrate his worth as an Army commander, Gough gave to the 1 Anzac Corps little time to prepare. Three Australian divisions were sent from Belgium to join the British Fourth Army in the Battle of Pozieres. These were the 1st, 2nd and 4th division. The ANZAC divisions were assisted in their attack by the British 48th Division, which launched a concurrent attack to the west of Pozieres, towards the Germans’ left flank. The operation had become a series of attacks intended not to break-through the German lines but to capture key positions and wear down the enemy.

However, Pozieres Ridge was heavily defended by the Germans, who had used the week preceding the attack to reinforce their positions with a network of machine guns placed in shell holes in front of their lines. The Germans main strategy of defence was to break down the advancement of the Allies troops with machine gun fire. However, the Australian and British divisions finally broke through the German lines and trenches, taking the village of Pozieres. Pozieres Ridge finally fell to the Allies on August 4, 1916, after two weeks of exhausting and costly fighting. Once Pozieres became under attack by the Allies, it became a focus of attention for the Germans. The village was a critical element of their defensive system. Due to this, the German command ordered that the village must be retaken at all costs. Three attempts to take back the village were made on 23 July but each was broken up by the British artillery or swept away by machine gun fire. With British activity now declining elsewhere on its front, the German 4th corps opposite Pozières, was able to concentrate most of its artillery against the village and its approaches. The initial strategy was for the bombardment to be methodical and relentless without being intense. Two lines of trenches needed to be overcome before the ridge could be claimed.

However, in the end, the attack of the Allies was too overwhelming for the Germans. The attempt of the Germans to retake the village was also fruitless. The Allies were able to conquer Pozieres and gain control of a pivotal location, albeit making a number of rash, strategical errors causing an incredible number of casualties,including 23 000 Australian soldiers in six weeks of fury.

Unfortunately, it was at Pozieres on August 5, 1916 that Herbert met his fate. Indeed, that day, the men of the 22nd Battalion were ordered to lead a new attack against a German line at Pozieres called OG2. During this attack, C Company led by Bert was sniped with deadly effect by a handful of Germans lying in shell holes about forty yards in advance of OG2 where Brind's Road ran through. It happened that Captain Curnow saw a well-known man of his company, Private Vienna, formerly a football supporter of Geelong, killed by one of these snipers. Exclaiming "I'll get the chap who did that," and drawing his revolver on the German, this beloved leader too was shot dead.

Today, Captain Herbert Franklin Curnow rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Courcelette British Cemetery, Somme.

The day before he died, Herbert wrote his parents a very moving letter which I read with tears and which I would like to share with you.

"We are four miles back and the guns are going almost continuously. Other units have been badly cut up and I am writing this to set your minds at ease should anything happen to me.I have tried so to live that my example to others may be for good, and trust that such has been the case. I must thank you for your love, training, care and every attention and hope that if anything happens that I may not see you again, that our heavenly father will give you grace and strength to heal your loss. I have lived a soldier's life and will not be ashamed to die a soldier's death.I have done my duty to my King, my country, and to you home folks. There's a lump in my throat and my eyes are moist as I scribble down that the hasty jottings may comfort you in trouble.And, if nothing happens, the knowledge that I am your loving son, Bert."

Herbert, young and dedicated, loyal to your country, it was with your head held high and your shoulders straight that you followed your heart and answered the call of duty to join your comrades and friends to whom you volunteered with pride and determination to do what was right and together, shoulder to shoulder, from Australia and the coasts bathed in light, they embarked towards their destiny and walked with on their faces and in their eyes the innocence and the ardor of their youth with the deep desire to fight for peace and freedom, to help the people of France, and behind the bugles and the drums, singing behind the bagpipes, in the summer heat and in a good mood that reigned in their ranks , headed for the front line and discovered the charm of a country for which they would fight so hard.They saw the fields of undulating poppies as far as the eye could see in silent red waves and the tranquility of the orchards, the beauty of the apple trees in blossom but also the sweetness and love of the people of France who quickly adopted the young Australian soldiers with whom they forged beautiful friendships, bonds of brotherhood and who, far from home, found in French families, the sweetness of a maternal bond, the warmth of a love they left behind them in the tender arms of their mothers who were waiting and hoping to see their young sons again who, after a long walk, joined the trenches and the front line in what they thought was another world because around them, everything was destroyed, everything was only desolation, ruins and death and had to walk with their heads down under the mournful howls of the shells which flew all around them bringing carnage and death as they rained down on what were once fields of golden wheat and which, hour after hour, day and night, turned into fields of execution on which nothing could stand without fear of being swept away and torn to pieces by rains of screaming metal spat out with precision by such lethal weapons built at an industrial pace for the sole purpose of annihilating thousands of young men who stood admirably under those deadly deluges of shrapnel which, if they didn't always kill, bruise so many young boys into ghastly wounds or mutilated them for the rest of their lives.In this hell, among the rats, tormented by hunger and thirst, gripped in the stomach by the fear of death, these young men found light and comfort in the friendship and camaraderie that bound them like brothers. They watched over each other and shared fears and hopes, pains and moments of respite and from this bond was born a courage that nothing broke and which, behind the parapets, gave them the strength to stand ready for the greatest sacrifices while waiting for the signal to go over the top then, after a last handshake, a last word, a last prayer, a last tear, resounded above the battlefields the echoes of whistles which pushed forward so many young people boys who, bayonets forward rushed over the no man's land, towards the enemy lines and found themselves confronted with rains of lead and in front of them and at their sides saw their brothers, their mates who one after the other, riddled with bullets in their blood-soaked uniforms fell in the mud or were thrown into the barbed wire by the blast of the shells which fell at a relentless pace but through this madness and fury, during the deadliest battles of the great war in the Somme , the Diggers never backed down and fought with exceptional and exemplary bravery until the last bullet, until the last drop of blood until victory but here, on these sacred grounds,thousands of them stayed behind and now rest in peace among the poppies of remembrance which grow between the rows of their immaculate graves and which tell us with emotion and solemnity the life of these men whom the war broke too soon but, after having closed their eyes on the battlefields, rose up again to live again in the peace and silence of the light of remembrance and in the love of the people of France who will always watch with love over these heroes for whom I would give my today and my life so that their memory and their names live forever.

Thank you so much Herbert, for all you have done alongside your comrades and brothers in arms for us and for my country whose love, gratitude and respect will be forever yours.At the going down of the sun and in the morning,we will remember him,we will remember them.