This colour patch pin of the 11th Light Horse Regiment is a memento of the service of local man Henry ‘Harry’ Charles Curtis. The pins are frequently referred to as ‘sweetheart’ brooches. However, that name is misleading as the brooches were also given to female relatives and friends. In some cases they may have been purchased by a loved one as a symbol of affection and support for a soldier on active service. Unlike British regiments that had their own regimental badges, the units of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) had colour patches.
Surveyor Harry Curtis was among the first to enlist from Cardwell. The diary of local woman May Butler records that twenty-three people attended his farewell at the Murray Upper School before he departed by steamer. He enlisted in Townsville on 2 January 1915 with his father’s consent. During his training at Enoggera, Queensland, he sent postcards to his friend Hugh ‘Rowdy’ Butler, who would later enlist.
The 11th Light Horse embarked on the Medic on 2 June 1915, trained in Egypt, and was then deployed to Gallipoli until the evacuation of 19–20 December. The unit returned to Egypt and was involved in a number of actions over the next three years, including the Suez Canal, the Sinai Desert, Gaza, Beersheba, Damascus and Palestine. Harry’s service was interrupted by periods of hospitalisation and, though promoted to the rank of lance corporal, at his own request he reverted to the rank of trooper. He was discharged as medically unfit from the AIF in July 1919.
Twenty-eight men and women from the Cardwell area enlisted and are named on the roll of honour now housed in the local museum, where visitors are able to read individual stories on an interactive honour roll. At the outbreak of war the nearby township of Tully did not exist, but during its development in the 1920s the first streets were named after servicemen and servicewomen of the Cardwell Shire. Curtis Street is named after Trooper Harry Curtis and nearby Butler Street after his mate Rowdy Butler who was killed near Flers, France, in November 1916.
Service record of Henry Charles Curtis, 122:
Tully street names: signs of history, Helen Pedley, Tully, 2010.
Cardwell Roll of Honour 1914–1918