Arthur Horne
Service number 3952

It was 1980 before post traumatic stress disorder had a name; as a child growing up in the Depression 50 years earlier, Cec Horne simply knew something was wrong with his father.

Arthur Horne never marched in ANZAC Day parades and never spoke of his war experiences, even to tell the story of how, while serving on the Western Front with his brother, Matthew Horne, a German shell had landed between the two of them, miraculously failing to explode.

Many years after the war was over, an approaching thunderstorm would make Arthur uneasy and loud claps of thunder would send him diving for cover.

“He just couldn’t help himself,” said Cec.

“We never recognised it at the time, but he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.”

Born at Ipswich, Arthur was an 18-year-old wood machinist when he enlisted on September 18, 1915.

Private Horne was initially assigned to the 9th reinforcements of the 26th Battalion and on January 31, 1916, sailed from Brisbane on the Wandilla, bound for the Middle East.

On March 14, in the Suez Canal zone in Egypt, Arthur was transferred to the 2nd Australian Division Cyclist Corps – one of lesser known branches of the AIF – whose pushbike riders played their part in some of the major battles of World War One.

Five days after joining the cycle corps, Arthur left Alexandria for France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, arriving in Marseilles on March 30.

Both the British and German armies had successfully used bicycle mounted troops in the early and fast-moving stages of the war, but the landscape had changed dramatically by the time Australia’s cycle corps reached the Western Front in May, 1916.

“Bicycled to battle as a soldier with the Cyclist Corps.”

Negotiated tough terrain while under enemy fire.

By then, both sides were deadlocked in a war of attrition fought between trenches crisscrossing northern France. With roads reduced to rubble or a morass of mud and the countryside pockmarked with deep craters, it was hard going for the soldier cyclists.

Their bicycles, manufactured by BSA in England, were the most basic models, with primitive braking and thin tyres with little or no grip. With their rifles slung across their backs, the men of the cycle corps struggled to negotiate the tough terrain in the face of enemy shellfire.

Shortly after arriving in France, Arthur was hospitalised with appendicitis. When he had recovered, he was transferred to the 1st Anzac Cyclist Battalion on June 16.

During the next seven months, according to the battalion’s war diaries, the cyclists moved between France and Belgium through key points including Longueval, Vignacourt, Albert, Becordel-Becourt and Abeele.

Arthur’s older brother Matthew, who had enlisted three months after him in December 1915, had served on the Western Front with the 11th Field Company Engineers since November 1916. It was at Matthew’s request that, on February 21, 1917, Arthur was transferred from the cyclist battalion to the engineers, taking the rank of Sapper.

However, less than six months later, in early August, Matthew transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Returning to England, he became an aircraft mechanic, leaving Arthur with the engineers on the Western Front.

The engineers were tasked with finding practical solutions to the problems faced by the fighting men, whether crossing shell-ravaged battlefields, constructing lines of defence and tunnels and trenches, establishing observation posts and communication lines, building temporary bridges, or repairing roads and railway lines.

Illustrations from unit diaries which have been digitised by the Australian War Memorial show the ingenuity and the initiative of the engineers who could inconvenience the enemy by destroying bridges or improve the lot of the ordinary Digger by building bathing facilties where mud-caked soldiers could enjoy the unimaginable luxury of a hot shower.

Drawing of a bridge destroyed by the 11th Field Company, Australian Engineers, near Bouzencourt.

(Image: Australian War Memorial; Public Domain.)

Served alongside his brother in the 11th Field Company Engineers.

Arthur continued to serve with the engineers for the remainder of 1917 and throughout 1918. He was on detachment to the A Corps Gas School in France when the war ended on November 11, rejoining his unit the following week.

In early 1919, as the mammoth task of rebuilding a war-ravaged country was beginning, Arthur was detached to Gamaches, in Picardie in northern France, from March 18 to April 2.

Arthur left France for England on April 7, arriving at Southampton, and next day went to Codford, where he spent the next month waiting to return to Australia.

He left England on the Wahehe on May 10 and arrived in Sydney on July 1. By the time he was discharged from the AIF on August 28, Arthur had served his country for almost four years.

In 1925, Arthur then living in Brisbane, married Marjorie Jones. They had two children, Cecil and Audrey, but an industrial accident and the Great Depression made life tough for the family.

While working for the Ford Motor Company, Arthur lost part of his right hand in a spindle moulder and consequently his job. He spent months in hospital and the medical bills, in an era before workers’ compensation or health cover, nearly sent the family broke and they almost lost their home.

Arthur struggled to provide for his family during the Depression, with sustenance payments and relief work on the roads. He considered himself fortunate to obtain a job as caretaker of the Masonic Temple in Ann Street Brisbane, where he worked until he retired.

At 87 years old, Arthur died suddenly on December 27, 1984, while waiting for an operation at a Redcliffe hospital. Marjorie lived until 1991, passing away at the age of 88.

Arthur and wife Marjorie.

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