Born in Dublin on 22 March 1886, Cyril Morton Horne was an Irish writer and musical comedy performer. His first major role most likely came in early 1910 at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre. Later in 1910 Horne travelled to the United States, appearing in four Broadway musicals over the next few seasons. In 1911 he married fellow actor Scottish-born Marie Ditzen.

The Preface to Horne’s Songs of the Shrapnel Shell and Other Verses, published posthumously in 1916, notes:

Captain Horne, before going upon the stage in America – where he won fame and renown for splendid impersonations under the name of “Bobbie” Horne – saw service with the British Army in India, where he acted as aide to Lord Kitchener. Later he was attached to the personal staff of the present King of England. After going on the stage he appeared in several New York productions until the call of duty impelled Captain Horne to rejoin the regiment with which he had formerly served.

In January 1915 Horne sailed for Britain to join the struggle in Europe and in March 1915 was commissioned as Captain in the 7th Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers. In the Summer of 1915 he went to France as their Transport Officer. Over the final year of his life he wrote a number of verses which he sent to his wife in America.

Many of these verses were written in the trenches, between attack and counter-attack, with the shrapnel shells shrieking overhead, with mines and countermines exploding underneath, with the ever constant, surging gray tide of charging infantry threatening at any moment to overwhelm his command. Living for more than a year half-underground, like the moles he so vividly pictures in one of his poems, with the chances a thousand to one against him of ever emerging from the great conflict alive, he wrote these little verses, some of them scribbled in pencil upon scraps of paper, and sent them, one by one, to the woman across the seas to whom he had said good-by when his country called. [Songs of the Shrapnel Shell and Other Verses, Preface]

The Battalion suffered heavy casualties on the first day of the Battle of Loos (25 September 1915) and two days later Horne took over command of ‘A’ Company, one of the few officers to survive the battle unwounded. Horne was killed on 27th January 1916 in Mazingarbe in France. Whilst rescuing a wounded British soldier lying in front of the trenches a shrapnel shell exploded overhead, killing both men instantly.

Cyril Morton Horne’s Poems:

You can access Songs of the Shrapnel Shell and Other Verses at archive.org

Resources for Cyril Morton Horne

Anne Powell, ed., A Deep Cry: The First World War Soldier-Poets Killed in France and Flanders, pp. 53-57