Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Second Lieutenant Basil Arthur Horsfall V.C., 1st Battalion, the East Lancashire Regiment, was killed in action at Moyenneville in France.
One of eight children of a pioneer in the Ceylon tea and coffee industry, he was educated at St. Thomas’ College in Ceylon and Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Buckinghamshire. After leaving school he returned to Ceylon and worked as a rubber planter, an accountant and a civil servant; he also had joined the Civil Service Engineers.
At the outbreak of the Great War, Second Lieutenant Horsfall left his civil appointment, but was not released from the Civil Service Engineers until July of 1916. He was then gazetted into the East Lancashire Regiment. In May of 1917, a few weeks after arriving in France, he was wounded and sent back to England to convalesce.
On the 21st of March, 1918, between Moyenneville and Ablainzevelle in France, Second Lieutenant Horsfall’s centre platoon was attacked and the three forward sections driven back. He was wounded in the head, but chose to ignore it and reorganized his troops to counterattack. He refused to go to the dressing station, as the other officers had been killed. After a second counterattack he was ordered to withdraw - as he did so, the last to leave, he was shot and presumed killed.
Second Lieutenant Horsfall’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, which was presented to his parents in Colombo, and the Governor of Ceylon presented a letter from King George V. His medal is now held by the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment Museum in Preston, Lancashire.
Basil, born in Colombo, Ceylon, was 30 years old.