Sold with a quantity of original documentation including Curtis' notebook containing his statement of the events on 23.2.1900 and his Warrant appointing him a Yeoman Warder in 1910.
V.C. London Gazette 15.1.1901 'On the 23 February 1900, Colonel Harris lay all day long in a perfectly open space under close fire of a Boer breastwork. The Boers fired all day at any man who moved and Colonel Harris was wounded eight or nine times. Private Curtis, after several attempts, succeeded in reaching the Colonel, bound his wounded arm, and gave him his flask - all under heavy fire. He then tried to carry him away, but was unable, on which he called for assistance and Private Morton came out at once. Fearing that the men would be killed, Colonel Harris told them to leave him, but they declined, and after trying to carry the Colonel on their rifles, they made a chair with their hands and so carried him out of the fire.'
Yeoman Warder Albert Edward Curtis, V.C., saved his Colonel's life after the latter was seriously wounded in the East Surrey's charge at Wynne's Hill during Buller's final attempt to relieve Ladysmith. The charge of the East Surreys was driven back by the Boers and the wounded lay where they fell, close to the Boer trenches. It took Curtis three attempts to reach Colonel Harris and having saved his life he reported back to his Company and never mentioned the gallant deed that he had performed. As a result he was not recommended for the Victoria Cross by Lieutenant-Colonel Harris' successor as Commanding Officer of the East Surreys until October 1900.
'In accordance with instructions from Lieut. Colonel R.H. Harris, I have the honour to make the following report.
Lt. Col. Harris was very severely wounded on Feb. 23rd 1900 and was afterwards taken to hospital in Maritzburg. While there he wrote a report, mentioning among other matters the conduct of two men who carried him away from under fire on Feb. 23rd.
Lt. Col. Harris could not remember the names of the men and asked me to find them out and insert them in his report. I had great difficulty in finding out who the men were as the Battalion was moved shortly after Col. Harris was wounded and no officer or N.C.O. of the Battn. actually saw him carried away. Eventually I found out that Ptes. Diamond and Connor, 2nd East Surrey Regt., carried Col. Harris to the dressing station. I put their names in the report, which I handed to Major Gen. Hildyard, then Comdg. the 2nd Brigade, on or about March 19th.
It subsequently came to my knowledge that although the above named men actually carried Colonel Harris down from the hill where he was wounded, and thereby did good service, the circumstances under which Colonel Harris' life was saved were as follows.
Colonel Harris was wounded shortly after dawn and lay all day in a perfectly open space under close fire of a Boer breastwork. The Boers in this fired all day at any man who moved. In this way many of the wounded were killed and others received numerous wounds. Colonel Harris was wounded 8 or 9 times. No. 4675 Pte. (now Corporal) A.E. Curtis, after several attempts, succeeded in reaching the Colonel, bound his wounded arm to his body, and got out his flask and gave it to him - all under heavy fire. He then tried to carry the Colonel away but was unable, Col. Harris being considerably taller than himself. Pte. Curtis then called to the three nearest men to help him carry the Colonel away, but only one of them, an old soldier No. 3392 Pte. T.W. Morton could face the fire. He went at once.
Fearing that the men would be killed Colonel Harris told them to leave him, but they persisted, and after trying to carry the Colonel on their rifles they made a chair with their hands and so carried him out of fire. Had Colonel Harris not been carried away he could not have survived. Having got out of the fire Ptes. Curtis and Morton laid the Colonel down and went away for a stretcher, but while looking for one the stretcher bearers came to the place where the Colonel lay and Ptes. Diamond and Connor carried him off.
The circumstances did not come to my knowledge until about three months ago, as Ptes. Curtis and Morton said nothing of what they had done.
I have since been in correspondence with Col. Harris, who is satisfied that Curtis and Morton are the men who saved his life as described. He is of the opinion that both men deserve the Victoria Cross [Morton was to receive the D.C.M.], and has desired me to recommend them officially for it, which I now do' (War Office Records refer).
At some stage Curtis must have been asked to write his account of the events of 23.12.1900 and his hand written statement is contained in his note book. It is a fascinating original account of an act of gallantry as seen by the perpetrator:
On the night of the 22nd of Feb. 1900 I was with my Coy. and advanced to Gobler's [sic] Kloof and then on to Green Hill. We fixed bayonets and expected every minute to make a charge but we got the order to lay down the fire being rather heavy. We made head cover as best we could and remained the rest of the night. At daybreak the next morning some got the order to retire but the part of the hill that my section and all of A Coy. got the order to advance so off we went at the double with our rifles at the slope. Just as we rose from our cover the Boers put in a most deadly fire you couldn't see nothing but men being knocked over. Then some one gave the order to get under cover so we dropped down where we were and [indistinct] behind any stone that was near us. All day some of the chaps tried to get away but every time they rose they would go a few yards and then be knocked over. I saw Lt. Hinton go to where I knew the Colonel was laying. He had no sooner got to him then he was shot dead. I did not know that the Colonel was wounded at this time but about four in the afternoon I heard someone groaning in the direction of where the Colonel was laying so came to the conclusion that he was wounded. So I rose up from my cover and made for the Colonel but had to get under cover again as the fire became too heavy and the way I got to whim[sic] was to dodge from stone to stone until I reached him. I asked him if he was hurt and he said I am hit all over the body but he said who are you and I said one of your own Regiment come to try and get you away. I then sat him up but he was too weak to remain. So I called Pte. Morton of the same Regt. to help me he came at once and between us we managed to get him up and took a handkerchief from his breast pocket and tied his right arm close to his body and then tried to make a stretcher with our rifles but did not have time so put our hands together and made a chair and the Colonel put his left arm round my neck to steady himself and we then carried him back to a place [indistinct] where some more of our Regiment was. Myself and Morton had to go back for our equipment and rifles and went back to where the Colonel was lying. I then told Morton to look after the Colonel while I looked about for a stretcher. I was away about half an hour. When I came back they were just taking the Colonel away on a stretcher belonging to the Queen's Regiment. I then made for the Tigular [sic] for a drink as we had been 36 hours without a piece of biscuit or a drink of water. I then made for the Regiment and found them after a lot of trouble and handed the Colonels equipment to Major Pearce. He asked where I had been and I told him I had been off with A Coy. and that the Colonel had been severely wounded and Lt. Hinton had been killed and half of A Coy. had also been killed. He then gave me the order to join my Coy.
A.E. Curtis, Pte.
2nd E.S. Rgt.'
Curtis was presented with his Victoria Cross at Pietermaritzburg on 14.8.1901. He became a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London in 1910 and retired in 1931 after 21 years.