#100DaysofVimy – March 20th, 2017

Each Monday, we will share a brief biography of a soldier of the First World War with a Vimy connection. Today we honour:

Ethelbert ‘Curley’ Christian

Curley’s cheerful disposition enabled him to become a champion of war amputees.
Courtesy: Private Collection.

Ethelbert ‘Curley’ Christian was born in the USA in the 1880’s (both the dates and location given vary). A man on the move, Curley traveled extensively in his early years while working. In 1915, Curley was in Selkirk, Manitoba when he enlisted with the 108th Battalion (Selkirk) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Once overseas, Curley was transferred to the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers). During the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Curley was severely wounded, possibly coming under artillery fire, injured, and left buried in mud and debris for two days (according to his family). When he was finally uncovered, gangrene had set in his wounds, prompting doctors to amputate all four of his limbs. While in Euclid Hall in Toronto recovering, Curley met a nursing aid, Cleopatra McPherson; the two would marry in 1920 and raise a child.

The First World War gave rise to the manufacture of artificial limbs for the victims of war. In this note, Curley claims that “the two artificial legs forwarded me by the limb factory at the Dunnsville (sic) Military Hospital are not satisfactory, and I want the privilege of selecting the style and make of my legs.” (Editor’s Note: He possibly means the Haldimand War Memorial Hospital, in Dunnville, Ontario est. 1920).
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1695 – 54. Item Number: 100301.

Forever a man on the move, Curley returned to Canada as its sole quadruple amputee of the First World War and championed initiatives for the care of war amputees and disabled. In 1936, he boarded the S.S. Montrose and returned to Europe with the Vimy Pilgrimage, where he met and chatted with King Edward VIII at the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial.

Ethelbert ‘Curely’ Christian passed away on March 15th, 1954, at approximately 70 years of age. He is buried in the Prospect Cemetery section of the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

During the unveiling of the Vimy Memorial in 1936, Curley broke through the crowds and guards to introduce King Edward VIII to the blinded veterans.
Credit: Private Collection.
Nicknamed “Curley” by his mother for the curls in his hair, Ethelbert “Curley” Christian even signed his Attestation Papers as such.
Credit: Personnel Records of the First World War, Library and Archives Canada, Reference Number: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1695 – 54. Item Number: 100301.