Western Front Association, Northumberland branch

Professor Emeritus John Derry made a welcome return to the Northumberland branch of the Western Front Association to deliver his talk, The Unknown General (Horne).

Born in 1861, Henry Sinclair Horne was educated at Harrow before being commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Artillery from the Royal Military Academy in May 1880.

Horne proved himself to be a highly professional and competent officer with a keen interest in innovations and new technologies.

As the British Army expanded rapidly during the First World War, Horne was selected to command, first, a Division, then a Corps and, finally, 1st Army. He was the only British artillery officer to command an Army during the war.

Perhaps the steady decline of Horne’s reputation afterwards can be attributed to an apparent absence of surviving personal letters, diaries and memoirs. It was believed that, after his sudden death in 1929, his wife destroyed them. However, in 1997, his family deposited several boxes of documents with the Imperial War Museum. Military historians have since begun to reassess Horne’s career.

After his death, in the 1930s, some historians dismissed Horne and 1st Army’s efforts and achievements, claiming incompetence and Horne’s survival to his relationship with Haig, but John Derry illustrated so well why such claims are ill-founded.

Horne led an Army of almost 500,000 officers and men, which achieved major successes and suffered few setbacks during his command.

General Lord Horne was an ardent horseman and a devout Christian. After the war, he devoted much of his time to charitable initiatives involving the likes of the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Royal Army Temperance Society, the Old Contemptibles Association and many others.

Without notes or props, John’s style of delivery and treatment of a most unusual career absolutely captivated and entranced his entire audience.

The WFA’s next meeting, on April 22, sees Peter Trionfi deliver his talk Hurrah For The Last man To Die! WFA meetings are held at Alnmouth Ex-Servicemen’s Club at 7.15 pm for 7.30pm. Visitors and new members welcome.