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  • Christina Drummond

Corporal Kenneth Horsfield GC, 9th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1944, Corporal Kenneth Horsfield GC, 9th Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, was killed while on active service in Brindisi.

The eldest son of an engineering draughtsman and a cotton weaver, he left school before the age of fifteen and trained as a butcher. At some point before 1939 he had changed careers and by the outbreak of the second world war he was working as a timber machinist.

Corporal Horsfield joined the Manchester Regiment in May of 1939. A year later he is recorded as being posted to the Senior Officers’ School at Erlestoke Park, near Devizes, where he appears to have remained until August of 1942, when he went to Egypt. During that time had spent a fortnight at the Machine Gun Training Centre at Chester. Earlestoke Park was used during the war by the Special Operations Executive – the SOE was known for using stately homes for its activities and was often referred to as “Stately ‘Omes Executive”. He was later working at Audley End House in Essex and Gaynes’ Hall in Cambridgeshire, packing containers for the parachute drops essential for the support of SOE operations, and he continued that work in Brindisi near the air base from which the missions were flown.

On the day of his death he was working in the demolition area of Military Establishment 54, when an explosion occurred, which killed two men and injured three others. Corporal Horsfield attempted to free a man from the rubble, despite being surrounded by fire and with ammunition exploding around him. He ordered other soldiers to stand clear and used a fire extinguisher until it was empty. He was then caught up in a second explosion and succumbed to his injuries on the way to the hospital.

His commanding officer wrote: “ In view of the great sacrifice this soldier made, to save the life of another, and with full knowledge of the likelihood of another fatal explosion, I have no hesitation in recommending him for the posthumous award of the George Cross." From the London Gazette: “The King has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous award of the George Cross, in recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner, to No. 3531119 Corporal Kenneth Horsfield, The Manchester Regiment.” He is buried in the Bari War Cemetery in Italy.

Kenneth, from Hyde in Cheshire, was 23 years old.

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