Curtis Robert Payne was born in Orange in 1891, the second son of William, a popular local hairdresser, and Mary Ann nee Jones. William and Mary married in Orange in September 1886; their first son, William Henry, was born the following year.
In 1911 Mary Ann applied for a dissolution of her marriage with William on the grounds of desertion. This was granted, and Mary and Curtis moved to Sydney.
Curtis and William enlisted together in Sydney on 19 February 1917. Both were assigned to the 1st Cavalry Divisional Signal Squadron; Robert as a sapper and William as a captain. The brothers embarked HMAT A15 Port Sydney for overseas service on 9 May 1917.
Two weeks later, on 23 May, the Port Sydney arrived in Fremantle, whereupon Curtis disembarked to take a tour of the city. He failed to re-embark on time, and the vessel left without him. He was forced to wait for five weeks until the next transport vessel arrived.
Sapper Payne re-embarked from Fremantle on 30 June 1917. In August he joined the 1st Cavalry Divisional Signal Squadron in Mesopotamia, but was hospitalised shortly after arrival with fever. Sapper Payne was discharged from hospital on 10 September 1917 and rejoined his unit on 7 October.
Two months later, in December 1917, Curtis’ brother, William Henry Payne, died of smallpox whilst serving in Mesopotamia.
In early January 1918 Curtis embarked HT Ekma in Basra, for return to Australia. In June he underwent a medical examination at the 4th Australian General Hospital in Randwick. The subsequent report noted that Curtis was suffering from debility, weight loss, palpitations and tremors. The report also noted that he had been hospitalised on two occasions with malaria and neurasthenia. On 14 August 1918 Curtis was discharged from the AIF due to medical unfitness.
Curtis Robert Payne returned to his mother’s house in Coogee. He passed away at a private hospital in Randwick on 23 September 1924, aged 33. He is buried at the Catholic Cemetery in Long Bay Road, Coogee.