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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


NEWS

FAMILY HISTORY AT THE HEART OF WW1 RESEARCH

02 January 2019

Family stories about the war-time experiences of his Great Great Uncle have inspired a local teenager and his friend to uncover a story of bravery from 
World War 1.

As part of a Northern Ireland wide history project, members of the Banbridge Detachment Army Cadet Force were challenged to find out more about The Great War by researching stories of ‘local heroes’.   Cadet Corporal Nicholas Horsman (17), promptly enlisted the support and help of his pal, Cadet Corporal Marc Matthews (16), to investigate the story of his distinguished antecedent, Lieutenant Henry Horsman.

The teenagers uncovered a story of heroism which culminated in Lieutenant Horsman being awarded the Military Cross and Bar in respect of his service.  They learnt how ‘Harry’ has begun his military career as a runner during the Battle of Gallipolli, ferrying messages between the shore and the battlefield. He was promoted through the ranks and gained a field commission, becoming part of the Cavalry within the celebrated Mysore Imperial Service Lancers. 
In 1918 when the British invaded the tactically important coastal town of Haifa, Harry led 160 men up Mount Carmel to capture a 150mm Naval Cannon and 2 mountain guns which were protecting the site.  Just 15 men made it to the top of the mountain, but they took the gun, and captured 76 prisoners.

Later that same year Harry showed the same gritty determination in the capture of Aleppo, leading his squadron in a charge under machine gun, artillery and rifle fire and continuing the charge even when wounded and despite having two horses shot out from underneath him. He captured the machine gun post and helped secure the city of Aleppo for the allies. This was the last cavalry charge of the British Army on horseback.

Lieutenant Horsman’s role in the pages of history has long been a source of huge family pride. Harry was awarded a Knighthood in 1939 and, when they moved to Ireland from India after Indian Independence, service and patriotism continued to colour the lives of the Horsman family. The family bought two Spitfire for the Royal Air Force as part of the World War II war effort.



Nicolas Horsman says, “Harry was incredibly brave and had a distinguished war record but it’s easy to forget that, when he started out, he was a free-spirited young man who probably wanted his share of travel and adventure. 
“What isn’t perhaps as well-known as that war record is that family story that he joined the war after he and his brother tossed a coin to see who would stay and run the family factory in India and who would go and fight!  That story gives a real personality to a man who was certainly a hero!”

Cadet Corporal Marc Matthews adds, “This was a fascinating exercise and one which really extended the knowledge we had already gathered about World War 1 from school and Army Cadet Force history lessons. It not only reminded us of the truly global impact of the war, but also focused our attention on the concept of service.  Despite the dangers he faced, and the massive challenges he had to overcome, Lieutenant Horsman was one of the ‘lucky ones’ who made it back to his home after the war.”