Horrocks’ Ashes Ceremony

News that Lieutenant General Sir Brian Horrocks’ ashes were never scattered after his funeral in 1985 has come as a complete surprise this weekend.

The ceremony on Monday gives us another chance to pay our respects to one of the finest British generals of World War II. Horrocks was awarded an immediate DSO for his leadership of XIII corps at El Alamein, took over X corps in Libya for the Advance to Tripoli and in 1943 led IX corps during the final Allied offensive in North Africa, before he was badly wounded by enemy aircraft on the coast of Tunisia. A year later, he was given XXX corps in France, which he commanded until the end of the war, when he sadly had to be medically-discharged due to the injuries he had sustained.

In researching for my book, Liberating Libya, I interviewed one of his platoon sergeants, Jeff Haward MM, of the Middlesex Regiment and had tremendous help from the actor Edward Fox, who became good friends with him when he prepared for his role in the film A Bridge Too Far. However, the biggest discovery was when I learned that he nearly died of Typhus after he was captured by the Red Army in Krasnoyarsk in 1920 and it was only through the care of his best friend, Captain Eric Hayes, that he lived to become such a success twenty years later. See Churchill’s Abandoned Prisoners for the full story of the Horrocks’ time as a PoW in Russia during WWI.

Brian Horrocks, seated second from left, with the last British Army prisoners of war in Russia in WWI

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