Personal info

  • Name: Philip Kenneth Edward CURTIS
  • D.O.B: 7th Jul, 1926
  • D.O.A: 23rd Apr, 1951
  • D.O.D: 23rd Apr, 1951
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Lieutenant, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, attached 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 3
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The end of the Second World War left the world divided into two competing blocks, one free and led by America, the other Communist and led by Russia. In Europe this division was embodied by the Iron Curtain. In Asia after the Communists came to power in China in 1949, there sprang up what came to be known as the Bamboo Curtain. The period, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of Communism in Russia followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, is characterized as the Cold War. In the West there was no armed conflict, the two superpowers, both with large nuclear arsenals, being constrained by the Balance of Terror. However, outside Europe, the post-war period saw the dismantling of the colonial empires and the emergence of the Third World. Here, particularly where nationalist movements were dominated by local Communist parties, there was often prolonged fighting. Both in Korea, formerly governed by the Japanese, and in Vietnam, previously a French colony, rival Communist and non-Communist states’ governments fought against one another. The Western and Communist powers viewed these administrations as their clients and international rivalries were played out in what were essentially civil wars. Though it had an active role in the Korean War, Britain was relatively fortunate in its own experience of decolonization. As far as this volume is concerned it is only necessary to note that in the late 1940s and 1950s it successfully combatted a Communist insurgency in Malaya and that in the 1960s it assisted its former colonies in Malaya and Borneo to resist the threat of Indonesian expansion. In the Falklands War of 1982 it defended the inhabitants of this South Atlantic territory from annexation by Argentina. It also itself experienced a period of internal terrorism occasioned by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which began in the 1960s but could be traced back to the 1920s and earlier. Meanwhile, Australia had deployed advisors and troops in South Vietnam between 1962 and 1973. However, instability in the Middle East, where the secular nationalism of the post-war period has been overshadowed by Islamic extremism, now appears the major threat to world peace. The terrorist attacks on America perpetrated by Al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001 have led directly to Western intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the former country, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have also contributed troops to the military operation.


 During the first phase of the Battle of the Imjin River on the night of 22nd/23rd April, 1951, “A” Company, 1 Glosters, was heavily attacked by a large enemy force. By dawn on 23rd April, the enemy had secured a footing on the “Castle Hill” site in very close proximity to No. 2 Platoon’s position. The Company Commander ordered No. 1 Platoon, under the command of Lieutenant Curtis, to carry out a counter-attack with a view to dislodging the enemy from the position. Under the covering fire of medium machine guns, the counter-attack, gallantly led by Lieutenant Curtis, gained initial success but was eventually held up by heavy fire and grenades. Enemy from just below the crest of the hill were rushed to reinforce the position and a fierce fire-fight developed, grenades also being freely used by both sides in this close-quarter engagement. Lieutenant Curtis ordered some of his men to give him covering fire while he himself rushed the main position of resistance; in this charge Lieutenant Curtis was severely wounded by a grenade. Several of his men crawled out and pulled him back under cover but, recovering himself, Lieutenant Curtis insisted on making a second attempt. Breaking free from the men who wished to restrain him, he made another desperate charge, hurling grenades as he went, but was killed by a burst of fire when within a few yards of his objective. Although the immediate objective of this counter-attack was not achieved, it had yet a great effect on the subsequent course of the battle; for although the enemy had gained a footing on a position vital to the defence of the whole Company area, this success had resulted in such furious reaction that they made no further effort to exploit their success in this immediate area: had they done so, the eventual withdrawal of the Company might well have proved impossible. Lieutenant Curtis’s conduct was magnificent throughout this bitter battle. 

(Supplement to The London Gazette of 27 November 1953. 1 December 1953, Numb. 40029, p. 6513)

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