Gunner Thomas Curley, 1107509, Royal Regiment of Artillery
Thomas Curley, with his twin sister Norah was born in Ossett on the 21st August 1906, the son of Dewsbury born coal miner Thomas (Tommy) Curley and his wife Kitty (Catherine nee Giblin) who had married in 1890 in the Dewsbury area. The twins were baptised at St. Ignatius Church, Ossett and were educated at the parish school.
The Curleys originated in Ireland, but this large, second generation family lived in Ossett for much of their lives and all their children were born there. There were eleven children in all, nine of whom survived: Rose Ignatia, Catherine, Martin, Susannah Mary, Agnes, Winifred, Norah and the youngest Annie. Thomas was the youngest living son and in 1911, the Curley family lived at 9, Hilda Street, Station Rd., Ossett in a four-roomed house together with a lodger, 53 year-old Michael Curley, the older brother of patriarch Thomas Curley. The elder Thomas Curley died in 1932.
In 1912, the Curley family moved from Ossett to High Street, Westtown, Dewsbury necessitating a change in school for the younger Curley children, including the twins Thomas and Norah, who became pupils at St. Paulinus School, Huddersfield Rd., Dewsbury in buildings less than a decade old.
Thomas Curley married Alice Fisher, a member of a well-known Dewsbury family, on the 7th June 1930 at Our Lady and St. Paulinus Church, Dewsbury; the celebrant being the Parish Priest, the Rev. William Hayes, and the witnesses Edward Naughton and Thomas's twin sister Norah. The couple lived on Firth Street and then 107, High Street before making their home in Princess Street. At the time of Thomas Curley's death, his wife Alice was living at 12, Webster Street in Dewsbury. The couple had four children: Catherine, Thomas, Annie and George. Sadly, the two youngest children died in infancy. Although Alice Curley wasn't a Catholic, she always ensured that her children attended both Mass and Catholic schools, a practice that she continued after Thomas's death.
Having worked for a number of years as a linesman for the Yorkshire Electricity Power Company, Thomas Curley was recognised by his work colleagues as something of a grafter; a hard worker as well as being a pleasant and reliable workmate. At the outbreak of WW2, he was called up and joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery as soldier 1107509. Family members do not recall Thomas seeing active service out of England, but well remember him being based at Catterick Camp in North Yorkshire.
Thomas Curley's death on the 18th March 1942 at Whiteley Sanatorium, aged just 35 years (most probably from tuberculosis), caused genuine sadness among his friends as is testified in a letter of sympathy sent from Mr. Deely, the Secretary of the Dewsbury Irish National League Club, of which Thomas had been a member:1
"Dear Mrs. Curley, on behalf of the Officials, Committee and Members of the above Club, I tender to you and your family our deepest sympathy in the great loss you have sustained by the sad death of your dear husband. He was a good member of our Club and was very respected by all the members. May he Rest in Peace."
He was also a member of the Gladstone Liberal Club. During his illness, he was frequently visited by family members who took him a generous portion of the fruit that they were able to buy. His nieces Catherine and Pauline Tarney were encouraged to sacrifice their oranges because their uncle enjoyed their juice!
Gunner Thomas Curley died on the 18th March 1942 and was buried at Dewsbury Cemetery after Requiem Mass at Our Lady and St. Paulinus Church. Papers relating to his funeral show that the cost of his grave, including digging amounted to £1 10s. The fees of the presiding Priest were five shillings, and the entire funeral amounted to £17 14s 6d, the arrangements being carried out by Percy Lister of 23, Princess St., Dewsbury.
With the cessation of hostilities Thomas's widow Alice received the uniform commemorative scroll sent in the name of King George VI to every family where a loved one had paid the ultimate sacrifice. It read:
"This scroll commemorates Gunner T. Curley - Royal Regiment of Artillery - held in honour as one who served King and country in the World War of 1939 - 1945 and gave his life to save mankind from tyranny. May his sacrifice help bring freedom for which he died."
Thomas Curley was not originally remembered on the Dewsbury War Memorial, but later his name was added to the inscriptions. Ironically, in the year that the Memorial was dedicated, his brother-in-law, Tom Tarney was Deputy Mayor of Dewsbury, with Thomas's sister Winnie as Deputy Mayoress. As was the custom at the time, during the following year (May 1959 - May 1960), the Tarneys became the Mayor and Mayoress of the Borough. Thomas's twin sister Norah was also very well-known in the Parish, as she was one of the five unmarried Curley sisters who all lived together latterly on Scout Hill, Dewsbury. The others being Rosie, Katie, Susie and Agnes.2 Norah Curley died on the 25th March 1981 at 67, Ravens Crescent, Scout Hill, Dewsbury and she left £6,773 in her will.
In the Great War, Thomas's eldest surviving brother, Martin Curley (1895 - 1933) served with the Connaught Rangers in Mesopotamia and subsequently in France, where he lost an eye, for which he received an Army pension.
We are indebted for additional research by Anne-Marie Fawcett, Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), who first brought this brave Ossett soldier to our attention.
1. The original letter, dated 20th March 1942 was in the possession of Thomas's daughter Catherine.
2. "The Men of Our Lady and St Paulinus" - by the members of the history group of Our Lady and St Paulinus Church, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who launched the second edition of biographies of the men of the parish who lost their lives in the World Wars.