When Reg Curtis enlisted with the Grenadier Guards in 1937, little did he know that two years later Britain would be plunged into the Second World War.
Reg found himself fighting for King and Country in France and Belgium as part of the British Expeditionary Force and along with 300,000 other men was evacuated from Dunkirk in May 1940.
Winston Churchill called for a new type of fighting soldier and Reg volunteered for commando and parachute training, one of the first 500 men who formed No. 2 Commando, later renamed the 11th SAS Battalion. The training was intense and the techniques new and as yet untried.
By the time they saw action the Battalion had again been renamed, and this time the name would stick: The 1st Parachute Battalion.
In North Africa the Battalion’s ranks were tragically decimated, and it was here as part of the 1st Parachute Brigade that they earned the enduring nickname ‘Red Devils’, bestowed upon them by the enemy.
They dropped into Sicily, where many more of the original volunteers were lost in fierce fighting. But the vital role of the Para had been recognised and they were now part of a fully-fledged regiment.
The Parachute Regiment’s defining battle was at Arnhem. There, in September 1944, Reg was shot and lay on his back as the battle raged around him for six days and nights. He was taken prisoner and had his right leg amputated.
You will never hear these men speak of heroism, except when referring to the medics who tended them or the many brave civilians they met. But to the rest of us they are heroes of the highest rank, and Reg Curtis is one among them.
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