Veteran Stories:
Kenneth Harvey Curry

Army

  • Photo taken in Hamilton, Ontario in 1940, just before Ken Curry, 17, went overseas.

    Kenneth Curry
  • Dieppe POWs being marched to the Stalag. 1942. Photograph taken by an unknown German soldier. Ken Curry was given a number of photographs, including this one, by a resident of Dieppe, shortly after the war.

    Kenneth Curry
  • Allied POWs after the Dieppe Raid. 1942. Photograph taken by an unknown German soldier. Ken Curry was given a number of photographs, including this one, by a resident of Dieppe, shortly after the war.

  • Ken Curry in the centre, with his buddies Herb Shrubsall on the left and Tom Lillycrop on the right in Hastings, England, 1942. The three formed a mortar unit and fought in the Dieppe Raid.

    Herb was wounded on the beach at Dieppe. Successfully evacuated by Ken, Herb recovered, but was killed nearly two years later in the battle for Caen. Tom made it off the beach during the Allied retreat from Dieppe, but was killed when his vessel took a direct hit. Ken was captured by the German army and remained a POW until the end of the war.

    Kenneth Curry
  • Photograph taken by the German military after the Dieppe Raid, August 19, 1942. Shown are Canadian tanks, disabled by the stones on the beach. The cart, seen in between the two tanks, belonged to Ken Curry and his mortar crew, Herb Shrubsall and Tom Lillycrop. The crew were supposed to have used the cart to carry their 3 inch mortar and 30 bombs off the beach. Instead, being met with a "hail of bullets," they took cover behind the disabled tanks and fired their mortars from there. They never got off the beach.

    Kenneth Curry
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"I was only in my underwear, I’d shucked all my clothes and boots and my revolver and everything"

Transcript

Everybody knows about [the raid on the French port of] Dieppe and it was a pretty rough affair. It was supposed to be dark when we landed but when we came in, the sun was shining. It was a hot August day [August 19, 1942] and when they dropped the ramp, it was very quiet; there was no gunfire or anything astounding. And then of course, we were in the first wave hitting [code-named] White Beach, which is dead centre on the town [of Dieppe] and as soon as they dropped the ramp, we ran off, well, they [the Germans] opened up. Well good gravy, they were knocking us off left and right. And we came off behind a Bren Gun Carrier and as soon as it the, the sand there, it took a direct hit that killed the crew. So we stopped beside it and took shelter there. We had a, our 3-Inch Mortar and 30 bombs on it, next to it, and it give us shelter from the fire, which was murderous.

So we were attached to “C” Company [Royal Hamilton Light Infantry], which was on the assault craft to our left. And they came in just a little bit behind us and they just wiped up the headquarters of “C” Company and some of the men there of headquarters were to help us over the wall with our little buggy that held our mortar bombs and the mortar. And our job was to go back to some German barracks, the tanks were going to roll through them and as they were going through the barracks, we were put down a mortar barrage to kill them. Well, as I say, we couldn’t get over the wall, we lost I think three of our ammunition carriers that were also to help us, and there was just the three of us left. So we unloaded the 30 bombs. I had an idea where the barracks was, so rather than, you know, we got a little bit more shelter, we stood up and wanted to get rid of these bombs because if we’d have taken a hit, it would have taken all of us.

So we fired the 30 bombs in towards where the German barracks was, I don’t know what damage was done because as I say, we couldn’t see what was behind the buildings. And after all our ammunition was gone, we just lay there and just dare [not] move until things quieted down a bit. I mean, the beach was littered with dead and the shots and it was coming from all over, the artillery and everything and we were really hunkered down.

And as I say, there was three of us left and one of my buddies, he was in between me and my other friend and he took a bullet in the leg. And I don’t know how it missed me or the other fellow and hit him in the middle. But anyway, they laid down a smokescreen after we were there for about four hours and we had to withdraw. And I had a whole bunch of wounded and dead beside me and there was a wounded major. And my buddy was wounded in the leg, so this chap come down and he had four German POWs [prisoners of war] and I said, look, give me these guys and we’ll get this major with us. Of course, we were in the smoke.

So I got a stretcher-bearer that was close by and we put the major on it. I got a hold of my buddy with the leg and helped him, he could hobble, it didn’t break no bones, his leg was in pretty bad shape. And I got him down to the boat and put the major aboard and him aboard and I still had the German prisoners and the coxswain of the boat says, only wounded. So there was a big mother ship next to us, I waved the Germans aboard that. I get on this big tank landing craft with the four German POWs that I used to carry the major and I guess I’d been on it about 15 minutes and it had taken some direct hits and it was sinking. So I told the Germans to jump off, you know, you’re on your own.

So I jumped in the water and I had the, what they call the Mae West [inflatable life jacket] and I blew it up and started to swim out, you know, get away from the murderous fire. And as I’m swimming out, there’s little splashes and I thought they were fish, until it dawned on me, they were bullets, they were seeing me moving from the beach and I guess, you know, they were shooting at me from the buildings, I guess. So I stopped swimming and started to go underwater to get away, until I got quite a way out.

I was only in my underwear, I’d shucked all my clothes and boots and my revolver and everything. The only thing I kept was a ration of chocolate. So when I got into shore, I just laid there and ate the chocolate and there was bodies and lifejackets floating all over and I looked at a few, looking for my brother, which was a silly thing to do.

I could see an open gulley quite a way down, maybe about half a mile in the cliffs and I thought, gee, I’ll walk down to that and get up through the gulley because the cliffs were sheer. So I got just about to the gulley, there was some big rocks sticking out of the water and a German popped up behind, pointing a gun at me and, well, I guess he said, hands up, at least I assumed that. I put my hands up but I’m surprised he didn’t shoot me but then again, I was only in my underwear and I guess well look, he’s no menace. So they took me up to the top of the cliffs and there was about five other Canadians up there, some of them wounded and we sat there for a while and then they loaded us in a truck and they took us to a factory, an empty factory. It’s where they were collecting wounded and anybody that they could pick up.

And when I walked in, there was a guy standing there I knew, I said, have you seen my brother. And he said, yeah, he’s down here. When I got down, I see this guy, I said, have you seen my brother, Norm. He said, yeah, there he is there and he was lying fast asleep. And I went over and I shook him and woke him up and I said, here I am. He started to cry. So did I. So that was my enter into captivity.

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