condensed discuss document expanded export feedback print share remove reset document_white enquire_white export_white report_white

John Laurence Curtis

Portrait, John Lawrence Curtis - This image may be subject to copyright

Portrait, John Lawrence Curtis - This image may be subject to copyright


  • Title
  • Forenames
    John Laurence AWMM
  • Surname
    Curtis AWMM
  • Ingoa
  • Also known as
    • John Lawrence Curtis AWMM
    • Jack AWMM
    • Ginna AWMM
    • Rusty AWMM
  • Service number
    66653 AWMM
  • Gender
    Male AWMM
  • Iwi
  • Hapū
  • Waka
  • Rohe
  • Religion

Civilian life

About birth

Contribute ›
  • Birth
    20 May 1916 AWMM AWMM
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Birth notes
  • Address before enlistment
    Pre 1 July 1941 AWMM 85 Grafton Road, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Post war occupation
  • Next of kin on embarkation
    Mrs P.J. Curtis (wife), 85 Grafton Road, Auckland, New Zealand AWMM
  • Relationship status
    Pre 1 September 1941 AWMM Married AWMM


Wars and conflicts

Contribute ›

Military decorations

Contribute ›
  • Medals and Awards
    • 1939-1945 Star AWMM
    • War Medal 1939-1945 with oak leaf AWMM
    • New Zealand War Service Medal AWMM
    • Italy Star
      Africa Star with 8th Army clasp
      1939-45 Star Public - Ian Brett - Child - 22 January 2015 - hold his medals.
    • Defence Medal Public - Ian Brett - Child - 16 August 2015 - Hold his medals
    • 1939-45 Star - Phillip Arthur John - Child - hold his medals
      War Medal 1939-1945 with Oak Leaf - Phillip Arthur John - Child - - Hold his medals
      Italy Star - Phillip Arthur John - Child - Hold his medals
      Africa Star with 8th Army clasp - Phillip Arthur John - Child - hold his medals
      Defence Medal - Phiilip Arthur John - Child - hold his medals Public - Phillip Arthur John - Child - 25 July 2017 - Family History
    • Mention In Despatches Public - Ian Brett - Child - 3 June 2019 - Family holds Certificate of award gazetted1945

Training and Enlistment

Contribute ›
  • Military training
    Papakura Military Camp (8 weeks) AWMM
  • Branch Trade Proficiency
  • Enlistment
    WW2 Jul 1941 AWMM
    Age 24 AWMM
    Butcher/Civilian AWMM
  • Occupation before enlistment
  • Age on enlistment

Prisoner of war

Contribute ›
  • Capture details
  • Days interned
  • Liberation date
  • Liberation Repatriation
  • POW liberation details
  • POW serial number

Medical history

Contribute ›
  • Medical notes
    • Hospital Diseases , Wounds, WWII AWMM
      Appendicitis AWMM
    • Hospital Diseases , Wounds, WWII AWMM
      Admitted to the No. 3 NZ General Hospital Syria AWMM

Last known rank

Contribute ›

Biographical information

Biographical information

Contribute ›
  • Served as a driver for Lieutenant Colonel Harding, Commander of 21 Battalion.

    This a biography of John Laurence Curtis' war service, written by his son Brett Curtis: 66653 Staff Sergeant John Laurence Curtis. 21 Battalion, 2NZEF

    My father, John Laurence Curtis (Jack), enlisted in the Army in July, 1941 and did his basic training at Papakura Camp. He embarked for overseas service as part of the Seventh NZ Reinforcements in September, 1941. He arrived in Egypt as the remnants of 2nd NZ Division were regrouping after Greece and Crete.

    Posted to 21 Battalion, he saw no immediate action as the battalion was withdrawn from the front and served as Guard Battalion at the largest ammunition dump in the Middle East at Baggush.

    Later the Division was withdrawn from Egypt for R & R and he spent the next few months on the Lebanese border with Syria where some members underwent training as ski troops (a much desired skill in the desert!) He then spent time in hospital with appendicitis. (His appendix scar is nearly 8 inches long. Good army surgeons work).

    The battalion returned to Egypt and he saw action at Minqar Qaim, Alam Halfa and at El Alamein. One of his most vivid memories even now is the barrage that started the battle. He says that the noise was so loud that you couldn't hear the man next to you shooting and that the night was turned into day.

    He took part in most of the battles in North Africa, including Tebaga Gap and Takrouna and was the battalion commander's driver (and Mentioned in Dispatches) by the time the fighting ended in Tunisia in 1943.

    When the Division returned to Egypt, he was posted to 5 Brigade staff with his commanding officer, Colonel (later Brigadier) R. Harding. Harding was appointed POW Liaison Officer for the division. His job was repatriation of NZ POWs in Italy after the Italians surrendered. As the Germans rounded up most of the POWs and took them to Germany there wasn't much to do.

    During the battle for Tebaga Gap (where Ngarimu won his VC), he was driving Colonel Harding to inspect the battalion's forward positions when a shell exploded 50 yards from their jeep. The screwcap from the shell gouged a furrow across Hardings hand, giving him the only wound he was to receive in two world wars, and coming to rest in my father's lap!

    He was then posted to the staff of Major K. B. Myers, who was in charge of the NZ Forces Clubs. He was appointed Quartermaster Sergeant at the Club in Florence and spent the remainder of the war looking after the needs of the troops on R & R from the front line.

    One of the hardest tasks he was given was to find enough wine and chicken to provide Christmas dinner for the troops in 1944. Northern and Central Italy had been devastated by the war and everything was scarce. He eventually solved the problem by taking trucks to Calabria (Southern Italy) and dealing on the black market (swapping coffee, which NZers rarely drank) with the local Mafia.

    After Venice was declared an open city, General Freyberg sent a company of NZ troops in to seize the hotel in which he had spent his honeymoon. Their orders were to hold it against all comers (in field grey, khaki, or olive green). My father arrived with the staff to establish a NZ Forces Club there and was on hand when General Freyberg arrived to inspect it.

    When the Division arrived in Trieste and the war finished, his war did not. He was again seconded to the POW Commission and was sent into Southern Germany to help repatriate NZ POWs. He finally arrived back in New Zealand on September 6, 1945.

    After the war, he began a 25-year career in the hospitality industry, managing various hotels around New Zealand. He recently celebrated his 81st birthday and enjoys good health. He says that he is glad that young people today have never had to experience a war, but he is also glad he didn't miss it. It was indeed the major experience of his life. (November 1998)

    Middle name was spelled Laurence, but was misspelled on the Embarkation Roll as Lawrence. AWMM
Read more


About death

Contribute ›
  • Death
    8 December 2004 AWMM
    New Zealand AWMM
  • Date of death
  • Age at death
  • Place of death
  • Cause of death
  • Death notes
  • Cemetery
  • Cemetery name
  • Grave reference
  • Obituary
  • Memorial name
  • Memorial reference



Contribute ›
  • Memorial name

Roll of Honour

Remember John Laurence Curtis by laying a poppy.

Leave a note

Leave a tribute or memory of John Laurence Curtis

Leave a note

Contribute ›



Contribute ›
  • External links
  • References
    • 21 Battalion (Official history of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45) AWMM
      Cenotaph data entry form AWMM
    • Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. (1942). Nominal Roll Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force No. 5 (Embarkations from 1st July, 1941 to 30 September, 1941). Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer. AWMM
      WW2 5: WW2 54 AWMM
    • Veterans' club : the comradeship and memories of Auckland's 21st infantry battalion. Auckland War Memorial Museum : Auckland. Accompanies exhibition held in the Pictorial Gallery, second floor, Auckland War Memorial Museum, 24 March-21 May 2006. AWMM
    • 21 New Zealand Infantry Battalion Association Inc. Records, 1955 - 2005. Auckland War Memorial Museum. MS-2008-42. AWMM
    • Information kindly provided by family AWMM


Command item
Command item
Add new record Refresh
DateFirst namesLocationRelationshipContact
03 June 2019Ian BrettAuckland NZChild
25 July 2017Phillip Arthur JohnAuckland New ZealandChild

The development of the Online Cenotaph is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.

Creative Commons LicenseOnline Cenotaph Data by Auckland War Memorial Museum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.