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WEEKEND WEB: New book, “Deadlines”, reveals the story of a Holbeach St Johns wartime hero

The Curtis family at Holbeach St Johns circa 1935 - Harold and Lillian at the front with (left to right) Colin, Hugh, Wilfrid, Joyce and Mary.
The Curtis family at Holbeach St Johns circa 1935 - Harold and Lillian at the front with (left to right) Colin, Hugh, Wilfrid, Joyce and Mary.

The short life of a young man from Holbeach St Johns, killed on a Wellington bomber mission, features in a new book by the nephew he inspired but never met.

Journalist and author Mike Curtis has had a life-long love affair with aviation, thanks to his uncle – Pilot Officer Colin Curtis RAF VR – and a childhood visit to an airshow.

Colin Curtis in uniform.
Colin Curtis in uniform.

This year is the 75th anniversary of Colin’s death. Mike, who spent part of his career in Lincolnshire, says Colin’s father was the Rev Harold Eaton Curtis, vicar of Holbeach St Johns for 30 years up to 1939.

Married to Lillian, one of ten Veall sisters, the couple had five children Hugh, Joyce, Colin, Mary and Wilfrid (Mike’s father). When Harold gave up the living of Holbeach St Johns, the family moved to Wyberton.

Colin went to Moulton Grammar School and was training to be a teacher when war was declared. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1941.

He was engaged to Doris Fines, of Sutton St James. Doris, who died a couple of years ago, married an Army hero in 1954.

Wartime sweetheart: Doris Fines.
Wartime sweetheart: Doris Fines.

Mike said: “Dad always kept a photograph of his brother Colin on his study desk. Aged 22, he was in his RAF uniform with his wings.

“A few weeks later, he was killed. The photo always fascinated me as a child and, along with a visit to the Farnborough airshow when I was eight, helped inspire a lifelong passion for aviation.

“As I grew up, I got more and more interested in Colin`s story. He was shot down on his third mission in January 1942. We know the Wellington was shot down off Terschelling island on its way back from a raid on Emden docks andthat it was claimed, along with another two Wellingtons that night, by a Luftwaffe nightfighter expert called Ludwig Becker. He suffered the same fate a year later.

“Dad always spoke warmly of his childhood in Holbeach St Johns. A vicar like his father, he grieved for his brother throughout his life. He married and had four children and wished his brother had got that opportunity. The family hope that one day the North Sea will give up the secrets of

Journalist and author Mike Curtis.
Journalist and author Mike Curtis.

Wellington Z1110 and the six men on board.”

Mike spent part of his career with the Lincolnshire Standard Group and Radio Lincolnshire before eventually joining the national Asian Network radio station.

As well as featuring the story of his uncle, Mike’s book, “Deadlines”, is an engaging memoir of life as a reporter in an era before mobile phones and social media.

He looks back at national exclusives and all manner of subjects, such as Cold war jets, comedians, entertainers, footballers, musicians and royalty.

New book Deadlines.
New book Deadlines.

Pilots, politicians, heroic seaman and ghosts share the pages with a tale of being on both sides of the fence at Greenham Common.

• Deadlines (£7.99) is available in paperback and as an e-book. Details are available at www.deadlines101.com


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