Ralph Curry was born on 6 July 1895 at 6 Pine Street, Chester-le-Street, Co Durham. His father John was a joiner and his mother was named Harriet (née Richardson). They later moved to 17 John Street (by 1911), and 29 Co-operative Street in the same town (by 1918). Ralph Curry was educated in the council and then secondary schools in Chester-le-Street, and then trained to be a schoolteacher at Bede College, attending 1914-15. On completing his training he joined Durham University’s (Newcastle branch) Officers’ Training Corps and was recommended for a commission within three months (awarded 3 November 1915), and gazetted on 24 November joining the Durham Light Infantry. He was made acting lieutenant on 27 April 1917 while second in command of 151st Trench Mortar Battery, and promoted to acting captain on 23 November 1917.
A rugby and football player, Curry’s exploits during his time at the college were reported in issues of the college magazine, The Bede: he played in the Bede College football team against ‘B’ Company, 8 D.L.I. on 30 January 1915, winning 7 goals to 4, and also played in the college rugby team on 20 February 1915 against Imperial Services at North Durham Rugby Field, Felling, this time being defeated 16 points to 3. During their service Curry and his contemporaries at the college could keep in touch with each other through the same magazine. In June 1916 it reported Curry was serving with 8th Battalion, D.L.I., 50th Division, at the front, and in April 1918 it reported Curry and Captain R. Thwaites had been mentioned in dispatches for their good work in connection with the Cherisy raid on 15 September 1917. The battalion’s war diary contains a great amount of detail concerning the planning and execution of the Cherisy raid, but Ralph Curry – under the pseudonym “Choppy” – contributed a short description for The Bede, and which was published in the same April issue of the magazine.
Captain Curry died of wounds received in action on Tuesday 9 April 1918 during the Battle of the Lys near a town called Merville, France.
In the official history of 8th D.L.I. by Veitch, his death is recorded as follows:
Half an hour later, at 5 p.m., under cover of an artillery barrage, the Germans advanced, and a few gained a crossing at Lock de la Rault, but were then held up and a counter-attack was at once ordered by the three platoons under Captain R. H. Guest Williams.
The situation was now very critical, for half the Battalion reserve had been used and touch quite lost with Brigade Headquarters owing, it was found, to the buried cable between the report centre near Pont Riquel and the Brigade having been deliberately cut. At this time, too, the 6th Battalion garrison at Pont Levis had been forced back to the northern bank of the river. A little later a counter-attack restored the position here. In this counter-attack the 151st Trench Mortar Battery took part, and Lieutenant R. Curry of the 8th Battalion, who was commanding the battery, was fatally wounded. A message was sent to the 152nd Infantry Brigade, 51st Division, reporting the situation, and asking if any support could be given by them.
Eighth Battalion The Durham Light Infantry 1793-1926 , by Major E. Hardinge Veitch, p.171.
Aged 22 years, he left an estate valued £209 0s 8d. He is buried in Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France. His sacrifice is commemorated on the Bede College 1914-1918 cross , plaque, and roll of honour. It is also recorded at Chester-le-Street on the old war memorial (plaque containing names now located in the churchyard of Chester-le-Street parish church) and the war memorial in Market Place, on the choir front in the Central Primitive Methodist Church, on a memorial plaque in St Mary and St Cuthbert Church, and on a plaque at the secondary school. A short biography, with a portrait photograph supplied by Curry’s great-nephew, is published by the North East War Memorials Project.