Marlow soldier honoured 90 years ago today

Basil Arthur Horsfall

Basil Arthur Horsfall

First published in News by

IT WAS 90 years ago today that a soldier who lived in Marlow was honoured with the Victoria Cross for his valorous actions in the First World War.

Basil Arthur Horsfall, 1887 - 1918, lived in Marlow during his teenage years and attended Sir William Borlase's Grammar School.

Horsfall, who spent his early years in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) attended Borlase's from May 1903, when he was 13 years old. He left the school in 1905, having been made Captain of the School in his final year.

In 1917, after a stint in the Ceylon Engineer Volunteers, he arrived at the Western front with the First Battalion East Lancashire Regiment.

On March 21 1918 the German army's Spring Offensive began with a determined attack on the British lines.

Six days later, Second Lieutenant Horsfall's company came under heavy bombardment near the village of Ayette.

Following the bombardment they were subjected to a vicious German assault during which they were driven back. Although Horsfall was badly injured in the head he was able to reorganise his forces and counter attack, driving through to his original position.

According to a piece printed in the London Gazette on May 23 1918, "On hearing that out of the remaining three officers of his company, two were killed and one wounded, he refused to go to the dressing station, although his wound was severe.

"Later his platoon had to be withdrawn to escape very heavy shell fire, but immediately the shelling lifted he made a second counter-attack, and again recovered his positions.

"When the order to withdraw was given he was the last to leave his position, and, although exhausted, said he could have held on if it had been necessary.

"His conduct was a splendid example to his men and he showed throughout the utmost disregard of danger."

Horsfall was killed as he tried to reach a point of safety to the rear of the British forces. His actions were honoured with the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration that can be bestowed upon members of the British armed forces in the face of the enemy.

Thanks to John Evans, the late Kenneth Turner and Borlase's Helen Kendall for information.

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