Major Francis Woodley Horne
H.M. 7th Hussars
Francis Woodley Horne was born 3 July 1810 and baptized 21 February 1811 at St.
George’s in Bloomsbury London. He was the third son of Sir William Horne, Kt.,
Attorney-General, of Epping House, Hertfordshire, and 49 Upper Harley Street, London
and his wife Ann.
Francis received a classical education under the Rev. Thomas Horne of Chiswick. He was
nominated as a Cadet for the East India Company’s Bengal Infantry for the 1829/30
season, by EIC Director William Astell, at the recommendation of his father and passed
the Military Committee at the East India House, London on 18 November 1829. He was
commissioned as an Ensign on 3 January 1830 and embarked for India the same day.
Francis arrived at Calcutta on 23 April 1839 and was ordered to do duty as a Cadet with
the 13th Bengal Native Infantry, followed by postings to five other Bengal Native
Regiments over the next two years. He was appointed an Acting Ensign on 16 July 1832.
On 8 August 1833 Francis Horne resigned from the service of the East India Company,
having obtained a commission in the British Army. He was appointed Cornet in the 11th
Light Dragoons on 31 August 1832 and promoted to Lieutenant on 6 September 1833. On
8 February 1839 he transferred to the 15th Hussars. Promoted to Captain on 19 August
1842 and Brevet Major on 20 June 1854.
Francis Horne was promoted a Major in the H.M. 7th Hussars on 14 August 1857. He
served with the Regiment during the Indian Mutiny, including field service in Oudh from
February to October 1858, including the affair of meangunge on the 23rd of February,
the siege of Lucknow from the 2nd to the 16th of March, the advance on the Moossabagh
on the 19th of March, the affairs of Baree on the 13th of April and Sirsee on the 12th
of May, the action of Nawabgunge on the 13th of June, the advance on and the occupation
of Fyzabad on the 28th of July, the advance on Sultanpore on the 13th of August, the
passage of the River Goomtee on the 26th and 27th of August, repulse of the enemy on
the 28th of August and the occupation of Sultanpore cantonments on 29 August 1858.
The above picture represents the 3rd and 4th squadrons, 7th Hussars rapidly closing in on the fugitives, who made for the
ford, which was interspersed with rocks, quicksands, trunks of trees, etc. The speed became tremendous as they neared the
enemy. As the word “charge” was given, a cheer rose from the ranks, and they closed with a shock- men and horses rolled
together into the river, which, running like a mill stream, was alive with rebels, trying to escape. A scene of confusion ensued,
better imagined than described. Lieut. Stewart saw a huge sowar, whose horse had fallen under him in the river, standing at
bay with his talwar over his head, ready to strike. Stewart dropped his sword, by the sling and drawing his revolver, shot him.
Major Horne, who led the leading squadron MOST GALLANTLY, was last seen in the river, engaged with two sowars. His body
was found in the water two days after by some native divers, under the trunk of a tree, with a dead sowar grasped in each
hand. Captain Stisted was rolled over in the melee and nearly lost his life, his horse was carried down the stream and drowned.
Sir William Russell, having galloped ahead to overtake these squadrons before they charged, came up at the moment they
reached the river. He halted the squadrons as soon as possible and got the men together to prevent further loss of life
which was now useless. Capt. Stisted and three men of the 7th Hussars whose horses had been drowned, were standing on a
small sand bank in the middle of the river. None of them could swim, and as the river was running like a sluice, they had much
difficulty in keeping their footing, and were in great danger of being drowned. Major C. C. Fraser (afterwards General Sir
Chas. Fraser, K.C.B.), though at the time being partially disabled from wounds, volunteered to swim to their rescue and
succeeded in saving them all after considerable difficulty, and under a sharp musketry fire from the enemy on the opposite
bank. He received the Victoria Cross for this gallant action. The figures, commencing from the left, are:- Capt. THOS. H.
STISTED, his horse rearing over with him in the river; Lieut. R. D. STEWART, firing his pistol at the sowar; Lieut. H. J.
WILKIN, his sword raised, leading on a troop; Lieut.-Col. SIR WILLIAM RUSSELL, in right comer with his left hand uplifted,
halting the squadron with his usual “Steady, men, steady."
It is curious to note that Malleson (vol. iii. p. 295); in mentioning the charge into the Raptee by the 7th Hussars, miscalls
Major Horne, stating his name to be Home.
Regarding the recovery of the bodies of Major Horne and the two privates who were drowned, we read in the “Life of Sir
James Hope Grant” that :
“After some search the bodies were drawn out of a deep hole, Horne with a fast grip of two of the enemy, and the two
privates each clutching a sowar” The writer adds: “This was probably the result of the death struggle.”
In October, November and December of 1858, the 7th Hussars were part of a column under the command of General Sir Hope
Grant in pursuit of the rebel Nana Sahib. There are numerous accounts of the affair at the River Raptee in December, but the
best is probably to be found in The 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, by C.R.B. Barrett:
We now reach the episode of the' crossing of the river Raptee, which has already been touched upon.
It will be admitted that the fording of an Indian river is an operation which is not to be undertaken by a couple of regiments of
cavalry at a fairly high speed, and without some knowledge of the conditions under which the crossing is to be effected. That is
to say, it is well to know whether: the bottom is unencumbered by rocks, whether the current is swift or whether there are
holes. In this case, however, it would appear that not only was the attempt made to ford an unsurveyed stream and at speed ,
but it was discovered too late that rocks, quicksands, trunks of trees, and holes abounded.
That the charge was gallantly made it is impossible to deny, but that it ever ought to have been made under the conditions
which obtained at the spot cannot be reasonably affirmed. Hence it was that the Regiment had to mourn the loss of the major
and more than one of their comrades in-arms.
Beneath a large picture in the mess which represents the incident the following account has been placed :-
On 29th December, 1858, news was received that the Nana with his army was within 25 miles of our position on the borders of
Napaul. That evening the column was set in motion, and at 5 A.M. arrived at a village about a mile from the enemy. The Cavalry
(7th Hussars and 1st Punjaub Cavalry) and R.H.A., under Sir William Russell were ordered to advance and drive the enemy from
their position. They formed eschelon of squadron on each flank with the guns in the centre, and the whole advanced over the
plain at a gallop. The enemy could not stand this rapid attack, and abandoning their most advanced guns, fled, and were pursued
to a long belt of jungle which stretched for miles, and were not dislodged till the Infantry came up, driving them from their
position and forcing them through the wood and over another plain which stretched down to the river Raptee about six miles
off. The plain was covered with the army of the Nana and the largest body appeared to be making towards the lower ford to
the right. As soon as the Cavalry and Artillery had defiled through the jungle, they were launched in pursuit to the right, but
their career was stopped by a very wide and difficult nuIla which the Cavalry got over, but which stopped the Artillery. Sir
William Russell led the 1st Punjaub Cavalry supported by the 1st and 2nd squadrons, 7th Hussars, and charged to the right,
driving the enemy into the river. Finding it impossible to force the ford in the face of the fire from a battery of heavy guns,
Sir William Russell wheeled to the left, and running the gauntlet through a hot fire from the enemy's gun and musketry,
galloped along the plain towards the upper ford on the left, to which the 3rd and 4th squadrons, 7th Hussars, under Major F.
W. Horne, had been previously sent.