b. 06/01/1914 Deptford, London. d. 20/01/1944 Kyauchaw, Burma
Alec George Horwood (1914-1944) was born on 6th January 1914 in Deptford, London, the son of George Alfred Horwood (1887-1964) and Florence Emma (nee Harding). His parents married on 9th September 1911 in Camberwell, and Alec was their middle child of three. He had an elder sister Ivy Florence (born 1912) and a younger brother, Kenneth Alfred (born 1919). After school, Alec was living in Bermondsey, South London, when on 3rd April 1939 he enlisted with the 6th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment.
He was mobilised later that year on the outbreak of World War II. As a Sergeant he was captured during the evacuation from Dunkirk but escaped via Antwerp in 1940. For this very gallant escape he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In 1941, he married Madeline Dove in Yeovil, Somerset, having been commissioned on 28th December 1940, he was attached to 1st Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment.
He was posted to Burma with his Regiment and was serving with them at the beginning of 1944. At Kyauchaw on 18th January 1944, Lieutenant Horwood accompanied the forward company of The Northamptonshire Regiment into action against a Japanese defended locality with his forward mortar observation post. Throughout that day he lay in an exposed position which had been completely bared of cover by concentrated air bombing and effectively shot his own mortars and those of a half troop of another unit while the company was manoeuvring to locate the exact position of the enemy bunkers and machine-gun nests. During the whole of this time Lieutenant Horwood was under intense sniper, machine-gun, and mortar fire, and at night he came back with most valuable information about the enemy.
On 19th January, he moved forward with another company and established an observation post on a precipitous ridge. From here, while under continual fire from the enemy, he directed accurate mortar fire in support of two attacks which were put in during the day. He also carried out a personal reconnaissance along and about the bare ridge, deliberately drawing the enemy fire so that the fresh company which he had led to the position, and which was to carry out an attack, might see the enemy positions.
Lieutenant Horwood remained on the ridge during the night 19th-20th January and on the morning of 20th January shot the mortars again to support a fresh attack by another company put in from the rear of the enemy. He was convinced that the enemy would crack and volunteered to lead the attack planned for that afternoon. He led this attack with such calm resolute bravery, that the enemy were reached and while standing up in the wire, directing and leading the men with complete disregard to the enemy fire which was then at point blank range, he was mortally wounded.
Sadly, Alec Horwood’s body was not recovered following the action, and he is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial on Face 4. His widow received his Victoria Cross from HM King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 4th December 1944. His medals including VC, DCM, 1939-45 Star, Burma Star, Defence Medal 1939-45 and War Medal 1939-45 were sold at Spink’s, London in 1997, and purchased by Michael Ashcroft, and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: NO KNOWN GRAVE - ON RANGOON MEMORIAL, BURMA. FACE 4
Alec Horwood's medals courtesy of Thomas Stewart
Lewisham Shopping Centre (Derek Walker)
Lord Ashcroft Collection website
Replica medal and citation plaque display in
Yeovil War Memorial (Steve Lee)