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Brian Horrocks

Brian Horrocks



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Brian Horrocks, the son of an army doctor, was born in India in 1895. Educated at Uppingham and Sandhurst Military Academy he was commissioned into the British Army in 1914.

In August 1914 he was sent to the Western Front in France. He took part in the battle of Mons and at Ypres, on 21st October 1914, his platoon was surrounded by the enemy and Horrocks was wounded and became a prisoner for the rest of the First World War.

In 1919 Horrocks served as a volunteer with the White Army in Siberia. While fighting against the Red Army he won the Military Cross. Once again he was captured and was not released until 1920.

An outstanding athlete Horrocks was the British modern pentathlon champion and took part in the 1924 Olympic Games. He studied at Camberley Military College and later became a chief instructor there.

In 1939 Horrocks was sent with the British Expeditionary Force to France where he served under Bernard Montgomery. Promoted to brigadier during the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940. The following year Horrocks took command of the 9th Armed Division had had responsibility for protecting the Brighton coastal area.

In August 1942, General Harold Alexander appointed Bernard Montgomery to replace Claude Auchinleck as commander of the Eighth Army. One of Montgomery's first decisions was to recruit Horrocks as head of the 13th Corps.

Horrocks fought at El Alamein before succeeding Herbert Lumsden as commander of the 10th Corps. In August 1943 he became the leader of the 9th Corps and took part in the successful campaign in Tunisia.

In June 1943 Horrocks was badly wounded when he was hit by a bullet from a German aircraft. He underwent several operations before resuming active duties in the summer of 1944.

General Bernard Montgomery appointed Horrocks as commander of the 30th Corps during the D-Day landings in June 1944. Horrocks and his troops liberated Amiens (31st August), Brussels (3rd September) and Antwerp (4th September). Serving under General Miles Dempsey, Horrocks took Bremen in Germany on 27th April 1945.

After retiring from the British Army in 1949 Horrocks did a series of military programmes for the BBC and wrote his autobiography, A Full Life (1960). Brian Horrocks died in 1985.

In October, 1912, I passed into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, bottom but one. It was a most undistinguished start to a military career. Apart from the games side I achieved nothing at all and remained a gentleman cadet (the equivalent of a private soldier) throughout my time at the college. Let me be quite honest about it: I was idle, careless about my turnout-in army parlance, scruffy-and, due to the fact that I am inclined to roll when I walk, very unsmart on parade. Throughout my military career I have always been allotted a position on ceremonial parades where I was least likely to be seen.

To make matters worse I got into trouble with the railway officials during a return journey from Gatwick races. We had gone there with such an absolute certainty for the third race that I had refrained from buying a return ticket in order to have more to invest on the horse. I did not even buy a race card so certain was I of a lavish win. As might be expected the certainty did not materialise and the railway company took strong exception to my return journey ticketless and penniless. The result was three months' restrictions which meant that I was unable to leave the premises during my last term at the Royal Military College and spent the time doing additional fatigues and parades. I was lucky not to be rusticated.

Up to now my life had been typical of that led by many young men with average or slightly below average intelligence who entered the British Army in those days. I was a games addict, did as little work as possible and seemed all set for a normal, somewhat humdrum, military career, but the First World War altered all that.

The mobilization arrangements for the B.E.F. in 1914 must have been very efficient, because only four days later I reported for duty with a militia battalion of the Middlesex Regiment at Fort Darland, Chatham. Within fourteen days and still only eighteen years of age I was marching down to the railway station at the head of ninety-five reservists who comprised the first reinforcement for the 1st Battalion the Middlesex Regiment then in France with the British Expeditionary Force. This was, I should think, the last time there was any romance and glory attached to war. It is impossible now after the bitter experience of two world wars to recapture the spirit of this country in August, 1914. As I marched through those cheering crowds I felt like a king among men. It was all going to be over by Christmas and our one anxiety was whether we would get over there in time. And all ranks felt the same. I arrived at Southampton with ninety-eight men, as three more had hidden themselves on the way down in order to get to the war.

My chief memory of those days, and the memory retained by all platoon commanders, was of marching-endless and exhausting marches I had never realest before that it was possible to go to sleep while the legs continued automatically to function. It was during these hard comfortless days that I first met that priceless Cockney sense of humour. A small private soldier in the rank in front of me looked up at his neighbour, who was blessed with a long lugubrious face, and said, "Why don't you give your face a holiday, chum? Try a smile."

It was a lonely life, and to add to my misery something seemed to have gone wrong with one of my legs, which had become very swollen. Nevertheless, although I could hardly walk, I was judged fit to be sent back to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. My escort turned out to be a Feldwebel of the Imperial Guard who had been at the front since the beginning of the war, and was now on his way back to Germany to do some course or other; he spoke a little English, and had once been to London to take part in a swimming race.

At the station I was leaning out of the carriage window when a German Red Cross girl passed along the platform carrying a large bowl of soup with an appetizing smell. She stopped, and then, seeing that I was an Englishman, spat into the soup and threw it on the platform. There was a bellow of rage from my escort. He made me sit well down in the carriage while he leant out and collected food from all who passed, every bit of which was passed back to me.

During my time in Germany I had lived for many months with one other British officer in a room with fifty Russian officers. So I had perforce to learn Russian. When, therefore, the War Office called for volunteers who knew the language to go to Russia to help the White armies in their struggle against the Bolsheviks, I immediately applied and was ordered to Siberia. Instead of returning to my regiment for some elementary instruction in military matters and for some much-needed discipline, I set off on what promised to be a

far more exciting venture.

The Red armies after seizing power in Moscow and Petrograd had overrun most of Siberia. During the winter of 1918-19 the Whites, under command of Admiral Koltchak, had driven them back into Russia proper. Apparently this success had been achieved mainly by the Czechs. After the revolution thousands of Czechs had come to Siberia and, realizing that their only chance of survival lay in a cohesive effort, they had formed themselves into a corps under command of a Czech general called Gaida. With the exception of a few battalions formed from Russian officer cadet training units, plus one division of Poles, these Czechs were the only reliable troops at Koltchak's disposal. Now, very naturally, they wanted to go home, and it was our task to train and equip White Russian forces raised in Siberia to take their place on the front.

We were warned that the White Russian officers and intelligentsia resented both our help and our presence in their country. One wise old British colonel said even in those early days, " I believe we shall rue this business for many years. It is always unwise to intervene in the domestic affairs of any country. In my opinion the Reds are bound to win and our present policy will cause bitterness between us for a long time to come."

How right he was: there are many people today who trace the present international impasse back to that fatal year of 1919. This was well above my head: the whole project sounded most exciting and that was all I cared about.

I hadn't been there two hours when I was told that the divisional commander. General Montgomery, was in his car on the road and wanted to see me. Monty had obviously come up at once to cast an eye over his new divisional machine-gun commander. This was my first meeting with him. I saw a small, alert figure with piercing eyes sitting in the back of his car - the man under whom I was to fight all my battles during the war, and who was to have more influence on my life than anyone before or since.

I knew him well by reputation. He was probably the most discussed general in the British Army before the war, and-except with those who had served under him - not a popular figure. Regular armies in all countries tend to produce a standard type of officer, but Monty, somehow or other, didn't fit into the British pattern. His methods of training and command were unorthodox, always a deadly crime in military circles. He was known to be ruthlessly efficient, but somewhat of a showman. I had been told sympathetically that I wouldn't last long under his command, and, to be honest, I would rather have served under any other divisional commander.

If you ask anybody what they remember most clearly about the retreat to Dunkirk they will all mention two things - shame and exhaustion. Shame-as we went back through those white-faced, silent crowds of Belgians, the people who had cheered us and waved to us as we came through their country only four days before, people who had vivid memories of a previous German occupation and whom we were now handing over to yet another. I felt very ashamed. We had driven up so jauntily and now, liked whipped dogs, we were scurrying back with our tails between our legs. But the infuriating part was that we hadn't been whipped. It was no fault of ours. All I could do as I passed these groups of miserable people was to mutter " Don't worry-we will come back." Over and over again I said it. And I was one of the last British most of them were to see for four long years.

We, as a maritime power with territories all over the world, have had considerable experience in landing troops from the sea; the Germans have not. Nevertheless, given time there was little doubt that they could eventually stage a large-scale invasion of Britain, so our defence had to be organized with the utmost care to make up for our lack of numbers.

It proved a very difficult problem because an enormous town like Brighton is laid out primarily to provide holidays by the sea, not as a fortress from which to repel an invasion.

Monty used to pay constant visits. " Who lives in that house ? " he would say pointing to some building which partly masked the fire from one of our machine-gun positions. " Have them out, Horrocks. Blow up the house. Defence must come first."

He was, of course, absolutely correct, but it was not always so simple as it sounded. My predecessor had, somewhat unwisely, positioned troops on the two piers without first of all allowing the civilian firms responsible for the entertainment booths to remove their possessions. I have never seen anything like the chaos which confronted me on my first visit; dolls and mementos were strewn all over the place, the slot machines of the " What the butler saw " type had all been broken open and the contents removed. We were in for trouble and we got it. Some months afterwards I received a bill for many thousands of pounds, which I hastily passed on to divisional headquarters.

One of the most fascinating studies of the last war was the contrast between these two great commanders, Montgomery and Rommel, each in his own way an outstanding general, yet utterly and absolutely different in almost every respect. Rommel was probably the best armoured corps commander produced by either side. Utterly fearless, full of drive and initiative, he was always up in front where the battle was fiercest. If his opponent made a mistake, Rommel was on to it like a flash, and he never hesitated to take personal command of a regiment or battalion if he thought fit. On one occasion he was found lifting mines with his own hands. His popularity with the soldiers was immense, but a great many officers resented his interference with their commands.

All this reads like the copybook general but, in point of fact, this is not the best way to control a swift-moving, modern battle. Very often at a critical moment no one could find Rommel, because he was conducting personally some battalion attack. He tended to become so involved in some minor action that he failed to appreciate the general picture of the battlefield.

Monty was not such a dashing, romantic figure as his opponent; nor would you find him leading a forlorn hope in person, for the simple reason that if he was in command forlorn hopes did not occur. He had an extraordinary capacity for putting his finger straight on the essentials of any problem, and of being able to explain them simply and clearly. He planned all his battles most carefully - and then put them out of his mind every night. I believe he was awakened in the night only half a dozen times during the whole war.

Their handling of the battle of Alam Haifa makes the contrast clear. Having made the best possible plan to win the battle, yet at the same time to husband his resources, Monty dismissed Alam Haifa entirely from his mind and concentrated on the next one.

While Rommel was leading his troops in person against strongly-held defensive positions on the Alam Halfa ridge, Montgomery was planning the battle of Alamein. That was the difference between the two.


A betrayal too far: Only brutal honesty will do at Arnhem’s 70th anniversary

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war.

Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down.

Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war.

Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down.

Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

In 1944, as the Allies were heading for Berlin, British Airborne troops were dropped in to take the Arnhem bridge, and the US 82nd Airborne the penultimate Nijmegen bridge. British tanks of XXX corps chugging up the road as reinforcements – at least that was the plan.

Known to most through the 1977 feature film, “A Bridge Too Far” (directed by the late Sir Richard Attenborough), Operation Market Garden was the biggest airborne operation in history. Over 40,000 American and British soldiers, with artillery, jeeps and light armored vehicles were dropped, by parachute and hundreds of gliders, behind German lines.

The objective was to liberate a large slice of Holland, cross the Rhine, grab a bridgehead into the industrial heartland of the Ruhr’s Nazi war machine, and end the war by Christmas 1944. Instead the mission's failure brought a colossal 16,000 casualties, and left a 60-mile finger of Allied troops sticking into German-held territory leading nowhere. A disastrous “Hongerwinter” of bitter starvation followed the military failure, where an estimated 22,000 Dutch civilians starved to death under Nazi occupation.

But as both sides gather in 2014 to remember, and puzzle over, one of the most enigmatic and engaging battles of the war, the organized evil of fascism is again legitimized, active and growing in Europe. Right now the legacy of Hitler's “Crooked Cross” is a political force, notably in Greece, with the Golden Dawn party, and Ukraine, with the openly pro-Nazi Pravy Sektor party.

“Did we,” many of the old soldiers will be wondering, “really finish the job in 1945?”“Have our leaders set us on the right path with their War on Terror determined to vanquish terrorism from the face of the Earth?”“Or has that enemy been deliberately 'cooked up' by the real enemy within?”“Will our children again have to confront this totalitarian menace in our midst before social justice triumphs and the cult of fascism and gangsterism is winkled out forever?”

At many of the twenty-four now mostly abandoned airfields all over the south and southeast of England from which the airborne Market forces took off, you’ll find war memorials to the thousands that died trying to liberate Holland. We owe it to those 11,000 or so that never returned to expose both the mistakes in and lies about the battle. 4th Parachute Brigade commander General Sir John Hackett, in the foreword to “The Devil's Birthday,” described it as “an absorbing field of study which is by no means fully exhausted.” In plain talk, perhaps, “a can of worms.”


Contents

Horrocks was the only son of Colonel Sir William Horrocks, a doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Educated at Uppingham School, an English public school, he entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1913. ⎚] His score was sixth-lowest of the 167 successful applicants for cadetships—even after the addition of 200 bonus points for an Officer Training Corps (OTC) certificate, which not all the other candidates had. ⎛] An unpromising student, he might not have received a commission at all but for the outbreak of the First World War. ⎜] Commissioned on 8 August 1914 into the 1st Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, ⎝] Second Lieutenant Horrocks joined the British Expeditionary Force's retreat following its baptism of fire at the Battle of Mons. On 21 October, at the Battle of Armentières, his platoon was surrounded, and he was wounded and taken prisoner. ⎞] Incarcerated in a military hospital, he was repeatedly interrogated by his German captors, who believed that the British Army were using expanding bullets in contravention of the 1899 Hague Convention. ⎟] Horrocks' captors refused to change his clothes or sheets, and denied him and a fellow officer basic amenities. Both had temporarily lost the use of their legs, and were forced to crawl to the toilet, which caused Horrocks' wounds to become infected. ⎠] However, conditions improved after his discharge and transfer to a prisoner of war camp. On his way to the camp, Horrocks befriended his German escort—he attributed their rapport to the mutual respect that front-line troops share. ⎡] He was promoted to lieutenant on 18 December 1914, ⎢] despite being in enemy hands, and often tried to escape, once coming within 500 yards (460 m) of the Dutch border before being recaptured. ⎣] He was eventually placed in a compound for Russian officers, in the hope that the language barrier would hinder his escape attempts Horrocks used the time to learn the Russian language. Years later, when working in the House of Commons, he surprised Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin by greeting them in their native tongue. ⎤] In the latter part of the war he was held in Holzminden prisoner-of-war camp. His resistance in captivity would earn him the Military Cross, awarded in 1920 and backdated to 5 May 1919. Δ]

Repatriated at the end of the war, Horrocks had difficulty adapting to a peace-time routine. He went on sprees in London, spending four years of accumulated back-pay in six weeks. ⎥] However, he returned to active service in 1919 when the War Office called for volunteers who knew Russian.


Brian Horrocks - History

Brian Gwynne Horrocks was born September 7th, 1895, in Ranikhet, India, the son of an army doctor. After graduating from boarding school in England, he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. He was only a mediocre student, yet, at the outbreak of World War One, he was posted to the Middlesex Regiment. He was injured in October 1914, near Yper in Belgium and was taken prisoner. Despite various attempts at escape, he remained a POW for the remainder of the war. He returned to England but could not get used to the inactivitiy of peacetime. He found a way to return to active service. April 1919, he turned up in Vladiwostok, Russia fighting against the Bolsjewiks. During this war, he was again taken prisoner but despite various diseases he recuperated well after his release.

Horrocks' committment to his regiment, in which he served for 15 years, took him to places like Silesia, Germany and Wormwood Scrubs. 1938, he returned to Camberley as a member of the staff. He was to assess the needs for an impending war and organized short courses for future staff officers of the Territorial Army. When Germany invaded western Europe, Horrocks was sent to France and put in command of 2nd. Bat, Middlesex Rgt, itself part of General Bernhard Montgomery's 3rd Division. In July 1940, while still in France, Horrocks was promoted to Brigadeer and put in command of 11th Brigade. Under supervision by Alan Brooke and Bernhard Montgomery, Horrocks came out well during the retreat to Dunkirque.

March 1942, he was put in command of the newly established 9th Armoured Division. August 1942, Montgomery made him come to North-Africa to command 13th Corps. When he arrived, he was tasked with setting up a defensive line on the Alem-el-Halfa ridge to repel an attack by the German Afrika Korps. When the Germans attacked, they were not able to deploy their famous 88's against the British tanks instead they came under fire from the British 7th Armoured Division and from the Allied Desert Air Force. On September 2nd, 1942, after fierce fighting, it became clear to the Germans that the battle was lost and a demoralized Rommel gave orders for a strategic withdrawal. German losses had beem substantial and Rommel had been tought his first lesson.

Following the battle of Alem-el-Halfa, Horrocks was offered the post of commander of 10th Corps but he turned it down, arguing that he rated hinself no better than the incumbent commander, Herbert Lumsden and so he remained in command of 13th Corps. After the battle at El Alamein however, he was named commander of 10th Corps. During Operation Pugilist in the south of Tunisia, Horrocks executed one of his most successfull attacks of the war. Montgomery had planned an assault on the Mareth Line, a frontal attack in combination with a 200 mile deep flanking attack to the south. After the frontal attack had bogged down, Montgomery decided to re-inforce the troops moving south with, among others, Horrocks' men. March 27th, the Tebaga Gap was breached, rendering the defensive line untenable and forcing the Axis forces to abandon their positions. In April 1943, during the last stages of the Tunisia campaign, Horrocks volunteered to command 9th Corps, part of the British 1st Army commanded by Lieutenant-general Sir Kenneth Anderson. In June 1943, Horrocks was seriously injured after having been hit by gunfire from a wandering German airplane

In September 1943, he flew back to England, accompanied by American Lieutenant-general Omar Nelson Bradley. Back home, doctors told him he would never again lead his men in battle. He found a little comfort in being awarded the title Companion of the Order of the Bath and the conferment of the DSO. Anyway, a year would pass before he would be named commander again. Being one of Monty's favourites, he was appointed to replace Lieutenant-general Gerard Corfield Bucknall of 30th Corps in late August 1944, who had fallen from grace. As officer commanding, he led 30th Corps in the fighting in the Falaise Pocket where the Allies defeated the German 7th Army. Horrocks remained in command of 30th Corps during its drive through Belgium. He liberated the Belgian capital of Brussels and at one time had advanced 300 miles in just six days. Horrocks' drive was halted as he received orders to capture the port of Antwerp. After the war he regretted this decision because it gave the Germans time to recuperate. The port of Antwerp was vital to the Allied cause as all deep sea ports on the French coast would remain in German hands until May 1945 and so all supplies still had to come all the way from Normandy. In September 1944, without anyone being aware of it, 30th Corps faced just one single German division but by the time preparations for the attack northwards had been completed, the Germans had deployed their 1st Fallschirmarmee (Paratroop army) of Generaloberst Kurt Student.
In mid-September, 30th Corps was sent east and the Canadian 1st Army was tasked with clearing the German fortified defensive line running from Antwerp on both sides of the river Scheld to the North Sea. Meanwhile, General Montgomery had devised Operation Market Garden which was to be the main objective of his 21st Armygroup. 30th Corps under the command of Horrocks would spearhead the attack on the ground, ultimately to link up with the British 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. 1st Airborne had been told that 30th Corps would relieve them within two days. When battle was joined, German Armygroup B commanded by Generalfeldmarshall Walter Model launched a series of counter-attacks, forcing Horrocks' units into the defensive. The terrain through which Horrocks' men had to advance was not suitable for their mission either. Often whole divisions were hindered in their drive and they had to advance along a single highway, later to be known as Hell's Highway. In the end, Horrocks' ground attack failed and he could not link up with the beleaguered 1st Airborne at Arnhem. He was however not held personally responsible for the failure of his Corps.
At the end of 1944, he was sent home on sickleave. In March 1945, he had returned however and led his Corps across the river Rhine. From there they advanced further into Germany, liberated the city of Bremen and came eye to eye with the horrors of Sandbostel concentration camp.

Horrocks was knighted in July 1945 but he remained in the army. From 1946 to 1948, he was General Officer Commanding Western Command and from 1948 to 1949 General Officer Commander-in Chief British Army of the Rhine in Germany. 1949, owing to bad health as a result of the injuries he had sustained in North-Africa, he was declared physically unfit for service. After his retirement he became Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, a function within the British House of Commons and from 1963 to 1977 he was chief executive of a contracting firm. During the sixties, he enjoyed a successfull career hosting a number of television documentaries on military history. He continued this success writing a number of books on the history of various British regiments. In the last years of his life, he remained active in charity work and ultimately was dealt a severe blow in 1979 when his daughter and only child drowned while swimming in the river Thames.
Sir Brian Gwynne horrocks, KCB, KBE, DSO, MC died Janaury 4th 1985.


Horrocks was born the son of a military doctor in British India and, like most other officer's sons, was educated in a boarding school in England . Before the outbreak of the First World War , he joined the army as an officer and served on the Western Front. He was wounded in the First Battle of Flanders in 1914 and became a prisoner of war in Germany, during which time he learned the Russian language.

After the war, Horrocks was sent to Russia , where he participated as a liaison officer in the Russian Civil War . He was captured by the Red Army and held for ten months, during which time he contracted typhus . At the 1924 Summer Olympics he took part in the modern pentathlon . In the interwar period, Horrocks served in various units of the British Army in the motherland and the Territorial Army. In 1931 he was admitted to the General Staff Course at Staff College Camberley . This was followed by appointments to the staff staff officer in the War Office , to the chief of staff (brigade major) of the 5th Infantry Brigade in Aldershot and finally to the instructor at Staff College.

When the Second World War broke out, he was transferred back to France, where he commanded a brigade within the British 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Bernard Montgomery at the Battle of Dunkirk . This was followed by assignments as commander of the 44th (Home Counties) Division and the 9th Panzer Division in the motherland.

On August 15, 1942 he was appointed commander of the XIII Corps in North Africa, where he again served under Montgomery in the 8th Army ( Battle of Alam Halfa , Second Battle of El Alamein ). Horrocks later took command of the XXX Corps from Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey , with whom he participated in the Battle of Mareth in the Tunisian campaign. He was wounded during an air raid in Bizerte he spent the next 14 months recovering.

On his return he was hired by Montgomery to lead the British XXX Corps in the Falaise Cauldron Battle . His corps then advanced to Belgium and took part in the conquest of Brussels (September 3, 1944) and Antwerp (September 4, 1944). During Operation Market Garden (September 17-27, 1944) his corps had the task of advancing to the parachutists who had landed near Nijmegen and Arnhem . The operation failed with high losses and the planned Rhine crossing was only possible in early 1945. The Corps commanded by Horrocks took part in Operations Veritable and Plunder in 1945 . It occupied Bremen in April and liberated the Sandbostel camp .

On 5 July 1945, he was a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the knighthood collected and led since then the suffix "Sir". On June 9, 1949 he was also Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath .

After the war, Horrocks served in the army for another four years until 1949 (Western Command in Chester and as commander of the British Army on the Rhine ) before he had to retire due to the late effects of his injuries suffered in Bizerta. Subsequently, Horrocks was a gentleman usher of the Black Rod , worked as a writer and co-editor of the Famous Regiments series , TV journalist and as a director of a construction company.

Horrocks had a reputation for being one of the most reliable British generals of World War II. Superiors and subordinates are said to have valued him very much.


Brian Horrocks


Sir Brian Gwynne Horrocks (September 7, 1895- January 4, 1985) was a British Army Soldier in World War I and the Russian Civil War and a British Army General in World War II.

Brian Horrocks was born in Ranikhet, British India on September 7, 1895. He was a soldier in the British Army in World War I on the Western Front and the Russian Civil War from 1919 to 1921. In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, he was promoted to a Lieutenant Colonel. He fought in the Battle Of France in 1940 and took part in evacauating 340,000 Allied Troops from the port of Dunkirk. In North Africa in 1942, Horrocks commanded the British XIII Corps against Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps at the Second Battle Of El Alamein. The British Commonwealth Forces swiflty defeated the Afrika Korps at El Alamein. In June 1944, Horrocks assumed command of the British XXX Corps where he would be promoted to Lieutenant General. He commaded the British XXX Corps during the Normandy Landings against Army Group B of the Wehrmacht. In September 1944, Horrocks commanded XXX Corps in Operation Market Garden, the Allied Military Operation to capture key bridgepoints in the German Occupied Netherlands in order to secure the quickest route to the Rhine. Operation Market Garden successfully liberated the Dutch Cities of Eindhoven and Nijmegen, but the British Paratroopers at Arnhem were overrun and Operation Market Garden had partially failed. Brian Horrocks was then sent back to Britain and relieved of his command of XXX Corps during the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945, the Allies defeated Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. On January 4, 1985, Horrocks passed away at the age of 89.


Corps Commander

Brian Horrocks was a Lt. General of the British Army in World War Two, probably best known as the commander of XXX Corps during the airborne operation "Market Garden", made famous by the film A Bridge too Far (based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan - Edward Fox played the role of Horrocks in the film).

Horrocks had already written an autobiography (A Full Life) before he came to write the work under review, as well as several smaller pieces and some editorial work.

Corps Command Brian Horrocks was a Lt. General of the British Army in World War Two, probably best known as the commander of XXX Corps during the airborne operation "Market Garden", made famous by the film A Bridge too Far (based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan - Edward Fox played the role of Horrocks in the film).

Horrocks had already written an autobiography (A Full Life) before he came to write the work under review, as well as several smaller pieces and some editorial work.

Corps Commander is not really an autobiography, and not really a campaign history, although it has elements of both. Horrocks' original intention was to tell the story of XXX Corps from the time of the landing in Normandy until the end of the war. As he states in the introduction, he realised quite quickly that this wouldn't do, as it would give the book far too narrow a focus, and the one thing he wanted for this work was to by "understood by a wide public". So he teamed up with the other authors to produce a work that covers the Allied campaign across North West France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and finally crossing the Rhine and entering Germany proper.

Horrocks' has an easy style of writing, but as is always the case in works of this type, it can be hard to follow the intricacies of battle descriptions, although the maps provided in the text do help the reader keep track of who was doing what when.

What does come out from this book is the speed of events, the (initially surprising, but understandable) lack of proper equipment, and the actual amount of equipment required (1.5 million gallons of fuel just to get the men and equipment up to the start point of the battle for the Rhine bridgehead). The horrendous losses of human life is also something that Horrocks dwells on, especially the high price many Canadian units paid in killed and wounded throughout the campaign.

Horrocks had never really recovered from the wounds he'd received earlier in the war in the Western Desert, and suffered periodic bouts of fever throughout the campaign, something he was initially worried about until Montgomery put his fears to rest and allowed him time to recover. The role of the Corps Commander is one of using units to achieve goals, so the units under Horrocks command were always changing depending on the task Montgomery wanted him to undertake at any particular time. While there were some constants, such as the 43rd Wessex Division, at stages throughout the campaign he had various English, Canadian and U.S. units serving under his command.

Horrocks treats each phase of the campaign in a chronological fashion, emphasising what he thought was important. So while there is detail on Market Garden for instance, he goes into as much detail describing the capture of Antwerp and other northern ports, and the final thrust over the Rhine.

He goes into some detail on what went wrong too - the failures of intelligence which cruelled the chances of Market Garden in September 1944, the failure to close the Falaise Pocket after D-Day, which was simply a case of not enough men vs. a strong enemy, and the failure to clear the Scheldt Estuary after taking Antwerp, rendering the port useless for a time. Horrocks puts the last failure down entirely to his own lack of nous in realising that simply liberating the city was not enough, he should have cut off the bottom of the estuarine peninsula in the same battle. This failure cost thousands of Canadian lives later in the war when they were sent in to clear the area, well after the Germans had fortified the whole area.

This is a terrible admission for Horrocks to make, but it is not in fact the thing that gave him nightmares long after the war. That was the decision he took to ask the RAF to destroy the town of Cleve, which was an important road junction he had to "take out" in his battle to get to the Rhine.

Horrocks is much harder on himself than on anyone else in the book - he rarely has bad things to say about any other leaders - her certainly had a lot of respect for Montgomery, and although he brings up the criticisms that were made of the Field Marshal, he is quick to defend him. He likewise has an understanding of the pressures Eisenhower laboured under, and his book does in fact sit where he sat as a Corps Commander, with a focus on the tactical grind of war, but with an eye occasionally cast over his shoulder to look at and discuss the wider strategy of the Allies.

He saves his best praise mostly for the men at the front line, singling out particular acts of bravery, and bemoaning the "blimps" in the rear that fail to adequately recognise such bravery in a timely or effective manner. There is a fine vignette in the book where he describes his embarrassment in talking to a corporal who had taken part in 7 battles and had no medals, vs. his chest full of ribbons for "being out the back". (Horrocks sells himself a little short here - he won the Military Cross in WWI for bravery in captivity).

This book is probably more for the serious student of World War Two - there are better books of a more general nature which give a broader history of the Western Front after D-Day, and there are other works which give a picture of what it was like to be in the front line - but Corps Commander is a well written work that gives some insight into the thinking and activities of the leaders that were on the interface between grand strategy and the grunt work of defeating the enemy day by day.


See Also

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Jeremiah Horrocks

Jeremiah Horrocks' mother was Mary Aspinwall, while his father, who was a farmer, is variously recorded as William Horrocks or James Horrocks. There is some evidence that Horrocks' father came from the Deane district of Bolton, although this is far from certain, but we do know that his mother was from a notable Toxteth Park family. Certainly some members of the family were watchmakers and it is said that a watchmaker brother of Mary Aspinwall first interested Jeremiah in astronomy. We have no certain information concerning the size of the family, although we do know that Jeremiah had a brother named Jonas.

We know nothing of Horrocks' early education, but we do know that he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 11 May 1632 . This young age, only thirteen or fourteen, might make us double check the date of his birth. We should explain that we have deduced the year of his birth from the certain knowledge of the date of his death, and a report that he died at the age of 22 . Some historians give 1617 and others give 1619 as the year of his birth. However, we should not be suspicious of the date of his birth on account of his entering Cambridge at the age of thirteen or fourteen since this was a common age to begin a university education at this time. He entered Cambridge as a Sizar which means that he did not have the means to support himself and was given specific menial duties to compensate for a reduction in the fees.

Although no record of Horrocks' university education exists, we know that at this time all students studied a set course which covered classical languages, literature, and divinity. A very minor part of the course would cover Euclid's Elements and Ptolemy's astronomy. Since Horrocks left Cambridge with a deep knowledge of the latest ideas in astronomy due to Copernicus and Kepler, as well as the expertise in mathematics to further develop their ideas, this tells us that he studied mathematics and astronomy in his own time. He left Cambridge in 1635 and returned to Toxteth Park. He did not graduate at Cambridge, but this is consistent with his financial status and many poor students left university without a degree since they could not afford the cost of graduation.

Soon after his return to Lancashire, Horrocks began a scientific correspondence with William Crabtree a merchant in Broughton, near Manchester. Chapman suggests that John Worthington of Manchester, who had been an undergraduate at Cambridge at the same time as Horrocks, probably introduced Horrocks and Crabtree. By 8 June 1639 Horrocks was in the village of Much Hoole, near Preston, since we have copies of correspondence he wrote from that village. He himself describes Much Hoole as:-

It is probable that he went to Much Hoole as a curate and to act as a tutor to the children of the Stones family, and if so he would have lived at Carr House, the Stones family residence.

In 1635 Horrocks began to use Lansberge's tables to compute planetary positions and to compare the answers with his own observations. He soon discovered that Lansberge's tables were seriously wrong and he realised that the tables were based on a false planetary theory. He turned to Kepler's Tabulae Rudolphinae Ⓣ which had been published in 1627 . Comparing the theoretical positions with his own observations he realised that these were by far the most accurate tables and that they were founded on a correct planetary theory. He therefore accepted Kepler's theory of elliptical orbits for the planets and tested Kepler's laws by direct observation. However he rejected Kepler's theory of why the planetary orbits were ellipses, which was based on alternate attraction and repulsion of a planet by the sun.

Horrocks then proposed that the planets had a tendency to fall towards the sun. He wrote:-

Not content with this theory without evidence, he supported it by analogy with the conical pendulum. He noted that if the bob was drawn back and released then it followed an elliptical path, and moreover the major axis rotated in the direction of revolution exactly as did the apsides of the moon's orbit. He also claimed, correctly, that comets and the moon followed elliptical orbits. Now with his greater understanding, Horrocks set to work improving Kepler's tables. Kepler had predicted a transit of Venus would occur in 1631 , and that another would occur in 1761 . Kepler had died in 1630 but even if he had lived he would not have seen the transit of 1631 since it was not visible in Europe as the sun was below the horizon during the transit. Horrocks, after correcting Kepler's tables realised that a transit of Venus would occur on 24 November 1639 , and that it would be visible from England. He wrote to his friend Crabtree and both planned to observe the transit. Horrocks purchased a simple telescope which he set up to project an image of the sun onto a graduated circle six inches in diameter.

Horrocks wrote in Venus in Sole Visa ( see [ 8 ] ) :-

gives around 60 000 000 miles ( the correct value is 93 000 000) .

The last letter we have from Horrocks written in Much Hoole was on 20 April 1640 . Shortly after that he returned to Toxteth where he wrote Venus in Sole Visa from which we quoted above. Although he is best known for his observations of the transit of Venus in 1639 , Horrocks' most important work was his lunar theory. He realised that the moon's orbit was perturbed by the sun ( remember that he worked before Newton proposed his theory of universal gravitation ) and was able to give a lunar theory which was much better than anything available at the time. In fact Horrocks' lunar theory was used for around 100 years, a remarkable achievement. It is described in detail in [ 16 ] where Wilson traces the origin of Horrocks' theory in Kepler's work on the motion of the moon, as transformed and calibrated by further data, in particular critical data concerning the duration of lunar eclipses. The final theory includes an explanation of the inequality depending on both elongation and anomaly of the moon by means of a variable eccentricity and an oscillating apse line.

All we know of Horrocks' death at the age of 22 is what Crabtree wrote on a bundle of Horrocks' letters:-


Larry Koller and Horrocks-Ibbotson in 1954

Fishing for History reader Brian O'Connor recently emailed me after coming across an article I had written about Larry Koller. Koller, for those who don't recall, was a legendary outdoor writer who also worked in the advertising industry, and was a top notch photographer. Jim Krul at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center & Museum has a great collection of original Koller photographs.

When Brian was twelve, he knew the Koller family. As he writes, " she had given me hundreds of black and white photo's from Larry's advertising years. He had recently passed away and she was cleaning out all of his old work photo's and files. At the time i thought it was a neat thing to have. Later on I realized I have some significant history."

That they do. Here's a sample. The photo below is a stock promotional image of a Horrocks-Ibbotson spinning reel from 1954.

Included with this was the following press release, from H-I's advertising agency:

What is fascinating about all this is the following internal memorandum, sent to Larry Koller and dated Oct. 19, 1953.

This is important for several reasons. First, it underscores how huge Horrocks-Ibbotson was. Second, it shows how much influence the "big boys" had in making publications take their products seriously. And finally, it shows the pressure outdoor writers like Larry Koller were under to promote the latest gadgets from the big tackle makers.

Thanks a ton to Brian O'Connor for sharing this with us. He's sent some additional images showing Koller's outstanding skills as a photographer which we'll feature over the course of time.


Watch the video: Μπράιαν Γκριν: Είναι το Σύμπαν μας μοναδικό; (August 2022).