COURTIS, Henry Burall
(Service number MB1937)

Aliases Known as Burall
First Rank Motor Mechanic Last Rank Chief Motor Mechanic


Date 14 March 1895 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 6 December 1916 Age 21 years
Address at Enlistment
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin W. A. COURTIS (father), Sophia Street, Timaru, New Zealand
Medical Information

Military Service

Served with Royal Navy Served in Navy
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Royal Naval Auxiliary Patrol (Motor-Boat Service)
Transport Orontes
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Military Awards

Service Medals
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations



Date 21 June 1974 Age 79 years
Place of Death Timaru
Memorial or Cemetery Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference General Section, Row43, Plot 276
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Henry Burrall Courtis was born on 14 March 1895 at Timaru, the only son of William Arthur and Gertrude Denithorne (née Burall) Courtis, and was baptised on 3 November at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Timaru. His grandfather Henry Courtis built the original gas works in Timaru. Young Burall, by which name he was known, was educated at Timaru Main School. There he won a good conduct prize in 1902 and a first-class certificate of merit in 1904. Burrall Courtis was awarded a Good Attendance Certificate of the First Class for having been ‘present every time the School was open during the period of twelve months ending December 20th, 1906.’ A prize for Standard VI woodwork came his way in 1909. His name also appeared among the prize recipients at St Mary’s Sunday School in 1905 and again in 1908.

‘Mr H. B. Courtis, son of Mr W. A. Courtis, gas engineer, leaves Timaru for Wellington en route for England on Tuesday, having been selected for the Royal Naval Motor Boat Service, Volunteer Reserve.’ [Timaru Herald, 4 December 1916.] ‘On Monday night at the Timaru Wireless Association's Rooms, a presentation was made by the few remaining members of the Association to one of their oldest enthusiasts, Mr H. B. Courtis, who left yesterday, to join the engineering staff of the Imperial Navy. The presentation was made by the President (Mr Young) and took the form of a specially inscribed money belt. Mr Courtis, in responding in a very neat speech, thanked the members for their gift and good wishes. He had, he said, becn very pleasanlily associated with them since the inception of tlhe Association in 1900. Mr Courtis is the sixth member of the Association who has left on service for the Empire.’ [Timaru Herald, 6 December 1916.]

H. B. Courtis was in a draft of recruits for Motorboat service who were leaving New Zealand in early December 1916. On 6 December 1916, he engaged as a motor mechabic with the Royal Volunteer Naval Reserve (RVNR), naming his father as next-of-kin – W. A. Courtis, Sophia Street, Timaru, New Zealand. He may have left New Zealand per the Orontes. He enlisted on 6 December 1916 and served as a motor mechanic on HMS Hermione from 6 December 1916 till 21 May 1917. From 22 May till 30 June 1917, he served with HMS Victory II. H. B. Courtis was promoted to chief motor mechanic on 1 February 1918. He was back with HMS Hermione from 19 February 1919 until 17 July 1919.

H. Courtis (C.M.M.) and many other Naval ratings were nominated by the Ministry of Shipping for return to New Zealand by the Tofua in 1919. Mr and Mrs W. A. Courtis received notification to this effect. A day’s delay occurred when the Tofua had a grounding mishap going up the Dunedin harbour to Dunedin. Although The troop train reached Timaru on 29 May 1919, it may have been June before Courtis returned to Timaru from Dunedin.

Mr H. B. Courtis demonstrated another of his talents, winning second price for a landscape enlargement at the Timaru Photographic Society’s monthly competition in May 1921. ‘Another stage in the annals of South Canterbury radio was reached last night, when Station 3 A.H., owned by Mr H. B. Courtis, commenced its first official transmission. At 8 o’clock this station opened with phone transmission, and until a late hour the Timaru amateurs were provided with a long and varied selection of items. The music, and speech were received perfectly by many local amateurs, who were enthusiastic in their praise of the transmission. Mr Curtis [sic] will be “on the air” practically every evening, and it is desired that all amateurs in the district should report on the items being transmitted.’ [Timaru Herald, 20 March 1924.] Also in 1924, Burall was serving on the committee of the South Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association.

Henry Burall Courtis married Jessie Macdonald in early April 1929 in Wellington. ‘Last Saturday, Mr H. B. Courtis, assistant engineer of the Timaru Gas Company, was the recipient of a presentation from the employees of the Company. The presentation, which took the form of a dinner service and a handsome teapot, was made by the engineer-manager (Mr A. Morrie Taylor), who, in doing so, on behalf of the employees, wished Mr and Mrs Courtis many future years of happiness and prosperity. The splendid feeling existing between the employees, and the esteem in which Mr Courtis was held by them, was referred to by several speakers, amongst whom were included . . . . . Mr Courtis feelingly responded, and the function ended with the singing of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow."’ [Timaru Herald, 6 May 1929.]

He was the assistant engineer to the Timaru Gas Company when his father died in January 1930. Mr Burall Courtis, of Timaru, along with other relatives, was present at a luncheon given at the Grosvenor Hotel, Timaru, on 29 February 1934 by Sir John Wesley Courtis of London, and formerly High Sheriff of Glamorganshire and Lord Mayor of Cardiff, on the occasion of his seventyfifth birthday. Sir Courtis was preented with a handsome greenstone paper weight suitably inscribed, by his New Zealand cousins. Henry Burall Courtis died on 21 June 1974, aged 79 years, and was buried in the Timaru Cemetery, a services plaque marking his grave.

Note – the service number was allocated in New Zealand and used for embarkation. The number was not used in England by the Royal Navy. RNVR officers were not allocated service numbers.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [14 August 2021]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [14 August 2021]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [14 August 2021]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [14 August 2021]; Timaru Herald, 19 December 1902, 16 December 1904, 23 December 1905, 22 December 1908, 16 December 1909, 4 & 6 December 1916, 20 May 1919, 24 June 1919, 9 May 1921, 20 March 1924, 14 June 1924, 30 March 1929, 6 May 1929, 30 January 1930, 21 February 1934, Evening Post, 2 December 1916, 16 May 1919, Press, 4 December 1916, Star, 17 May 1919 (Papers Past) [14 August 2021]; Military record (The National Archives, reference ADM 337/97/931) [14 & 15 August 2021]; “Welcome to the Timaru Main School 125th Jubilee 1874-1999” (held by South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [15 August 2021]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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