Hebert Franklin (Bert) Curnow was born the 9th of January 1893 in Kangaroo Flat, the eldest son of Herbert Benjamin Roberts Curnow and Janet Curnow (nee Carrey).
In 1907, Bert was the 10th student to be enrolled at what was then the Bendigo Continuation School, soon to become the Bendigo District High School.
Bert’s brother Leslie and his two sisters, Florence and Janet, also attended the school between 1908 and 1913.
After leaving Bendigo High, Bert received an appointment as junior teacher at Quarry Hill School in Bendigo. He moved to Melbourne in 1911 where he obtained work as a pay clerk at the Defence Department in Victoria Barracks, St Kilda Road. During that time he also attended several army training camps.
He joined the military forces in the 8th Australian Infantry Regiment and transferred to the 56th Infantry rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He was selected to attend the Duntroon Military College where he topped his class. He also passed ‘brilliantly’ at the Officers school at Broadmeadows in 1915.
Bert joined the 22nd Battalion 6th Brigade and was promoted to Captain A Company in charge of approximately 200 men. He departed for overseas duty aboard the HMAT A22 Ulysses in May 1915 bound for Gallipoli.
He was engaged to marry Emma Gilbert. Their wedding was postponed when he enlisted.
Bert fought at Gallipoli where he was wounded, and later went to fight on the Western Front. He was killed at Pozieres, France on 5 August 1916.
Emma never married.
*Bert’s niece and nephew, Janet and Jeffrey Woolhouse have published his war diary and photographs from Gallipoli and Egypt. The college has purchased a copy which can be viewed in the BSSC library. Here is an excerpt of his very moving final correspondence from the Western Front…
We are four miles back and the guns are going almost continuously.
Other units have been badly cut up and I am writing this to set your minds at ease should anything happen to me.
I have tried so to live that my example to others may be for good, and trust that such has been the case.
I must thank you for your love, training, care and every attention and hope that if anything happens that I may not see you again, that our heavenly father will give you grace and strength to heal your loss.
I have lived a soldier’s life and will not be ashamed to die a soldier’s death.
I have done my duty to my King, my country, and to you home folks.
There’s a lump in my throat and my eyes are moist as I scribble down that the hasty jottings may comfort you in trouble.
And, if nothing happens, the knowledge that I am your loving son, Bert