A Collection of Medals for the Russian Intervention 1918-20

Date of Auction: 8th May 2019

Sold for £1,400

Estimate: £1,600 - £2,000

A rare 1919 North Russia Relief Force M.C. group of seven awarded to Colonel W. S. C. Curtis, Somerset Light Infantry, attached 46th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, for his gallantry in leading his platoon to capture a strong enemy position near the village of Borok during the ‘Dvina Offensive’ on 10 August 1919, shortly before being wounded, in what was the largest battle fought by British troops during the Russian Intervention; he was subsequently Mentioned in Despatches during the Second World War

Military Cross, G.V.R., unnamed as issued; British War and Victory Medals (Lieut. W. S. C. Curtis.); 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, with M.I.D. oak leaf, mounted as worn, the Great War awards polished, thus good fine, the remainder very fine and better (7) £1,600-£2,000


Provenance: Strong Collection, Dix Noonan Webb, May 2011.

M.C. London Gazette 21 January 1920:
‘For gallant and determined leadership. He led his platoon in the attack on Borok on 10 August 1919. He organised an attack on a strong enemy position on the banks of the Teda River, and outflanked it. He was wounded whilst leading the final assault up the hill, but his platoon captured the position, enabling the remainder of the company to proceed towards the first objective.’

Walter Stopford Constable Curtis was born in August 1899, the son of Edward Curtis, a J.P. for Somerset, and was educated at Marlborough College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, before being commissioned in the Somerset Light Infantry in April 1918. Ordered to France on attachment to the 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment, in early October, he subsequently volunteered for service in North Russia after the War, and was embarked with the 46th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, seeing action with Jackson’s Brigade in the operations on the North Dvina in the summer of 1919 - he was wounded in the face from a ricochet bullet during his M.C.-winning exploits, in addition to developing malaria, and was evacuated to the U.K. that August.

Back on duty with the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry in Ireland by 1920, Curtis held a variety of appointments in the U.K. until being embarked for India in early 1936, where he was advanced to Major and served as Adjutant of the Nilgiri Malabar Battalion from April 1938 until March 1940.

Returning to the U.K., he served as second-in-command of No. 8 Commando from July 1940 until July 1941, when he was appointed to the command of the 4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and by D-Day ‘had produced a battalion trained to the last inch and fit in every way to meet the stern task that lay in front of it’. In the process, however, he had twice been admitted to hospital with injuries, namely a damaged leg sustained during a landing craft exercise and phosphorous burns received after a grenade exploded in a street fighting exercise. Taking the Battalion out to Normandy on 23 June 1944, he was again admitted to hospital, suffering from exposure, the unit’s history stating ‘his departure at this critical stage was a great blow to everybody, but his name has remained a by-word in the Battalion amongst all those who knew him’. Curtis returned to 21 Army Group in North-West Europe in late 1944, and served as C.O. of assorted Reinforcement Groups. For his services during the Second World War he was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette 8 November 1945). He was placed on the Retired List in March 1949, and died at sea in unknown circumstances near Battle, Sussex, in January 1962.

Curtis is mentioned (with photo) on pages 258 and 259 of Churchill's Secret War with Lenin by Damien Wright.