Basil Horsfall

Apr 26 2024.

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Basil Horsfall’s body is assumed to lie in a cemetery in Arras, France. His name appears on a memorial there.  He was a Ceylon engineer/ rubber planter educated at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. When he read how German troops were killing young British soldiers he decided to do his bit. He volunteered to fight and joined a Lancashire regiment and later a famous battalion called “The Accrington Pals”,  in 1917.

Whilst wounded and under fire he amassed his men and counter-attacked the German soldiers, he did this on two occasions saving many of his men. He was posthumously awarded THE VICTORIA CROSS, the highest recognition of bravery (Valour in the presence of the enemy) an enlisted military person can be awarded within the Commonwealth. His medal sits in Preston, England at The Queens Lancashire Regiment. I am by hereditary a Free Man of Preston, a long story for another day.

Basil is the only person from Sri Lanka I can track down to be awarded the V.C. There are said to be plaques in his honour in a school named after him in Arras and in his old school in Colombo. Would also expect Planters Clubs up country in Sri Lanka to have references to this hero. 03 The Accrington Pals lost 584 men in the first Battle of the Somme in twenty-four hours. This was over fifty per cent of the battalion. One thousand three hundred and fifty eight Victoria Crosses have been awarded to date. The British Head of State has presented 75% of them.

Like many others I am fascinated by the history of these men, what they did, their courage, and where they were buried. Hence I’m a Taphophile, tracking down many a grave, story and medal.180 VC medals have been bought by Lord Ashcroft and are on show at the Imperial War Museum  London. I wrote a true story some time ago about a chap at the end of the last century who had spent over twenty years visiting as many sites of graves of VC-awarded personnel.

Sadly he fell into an old war trench in his mid-forties in France, had to have his leg amputated and subsequently died, quite a grave story. Sadly, those who are awarded a VC and live on to old age are often forgotten about or have to sell their medals to pay their household bills.


Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]



  1. Yasalal De Silva says:

    Is he in anyway connected to Mr ,M B Horsfall,Mr Horsfall was at Glasgow estate,Agrapatna as its superintendent and was a rugby union referee.Later he was at Whittals as a director.

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