Published: 00:01, 27 February 2016
A war veteran thought to be the last of the original paratroopers has died aged 95.
The extraordinary courage of Reg Curtis, who served his country with “colossal valour”, has been commended by those paying tribute.
Mr Curtis joined the Army aged 17 as a Grenadier Guardsman in 1937.
He fought for eight months with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium before being evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940.
When 11 SAS was re-designated as the 1st Parachute Battalion in August 1941, Reg joined U Company.
He was one of only 80 men of the 1st Battalion who fought all the way through North Africa, Sicily and Italy to Arnhem.
He was shot and badly wounded at Arnhem in 1944. He lay injured for six days on the battlefield before having his leg amputated and being taken to the notorious Stalag XI B prison camp in Saxony.
After the war he returned home, married Betty Kirkness and started a landscape gardening business, even building his own house in Share and Coulter Road, Chestfield.
He was living in Chestfield House care home when he died on January 29, two years after his beloved wife.
He had been an active member of the East Kent Parachute Regimental Association and revisited Arnhem around 30 times, where he spoke of a special bond with local people.
Ex-paras from the East Kent, Thanet and Eltham and Chislehurst branches of the association were among the mourners at his funeral at Barham Crematorium last week and raised their standards in memory of Mr Curtis.
He also wrote three books about his wartime experiences – Churchill’s Volunteer, Tafelberg and, most recently, The Memory Endures.
He said: “I took part in the Parachute Regiment’s most remembered battle at Arnhem in September 1944 and share deeply in our bond with the good people of that city.
“This is an unbreakable bond that grows ever stronger and now truly spans generations. I must have returned to Arnhem 30 times since 1944 and I doubt there is any place on earth where friendship is more profound.
“I’m sure I can speak for every para when I say thank you to the citizens of Arnhem, especially to the wonderful children. There is no sight more moving than your annual laying of flowers at the Airborne Cemetery. You are our bridge to the future.”
Canterbury MP Julian Brazier paid tribute this week, saying: “I had the great privilege of meeting Reg on a couple of occasions and he was clearly a man who served his country with colossal valour and experienced some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.
“But he was also very modest and I was very sad to learn of his death.”
Mr Curtis had no children, but his nephew, Geoffrey Holland, said: “He was an outstanding man whose life will live on his books. The service was very moving and it was nice to see so many ex-paras there.”
See more on a Facebook page set up by Mr Holland, called The Memory Endures
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