Former Rifle Brigade commander who served in Kenya dies aged 83

Simon Horn
Simon Horn.

Simon Horn, a former Rifle Brigade platoon commander who served in Kenya, passed away on 8 December, 2018 aged 83.

Born at Stanstead Abbots, Hertfordshire, on March 9 1935 and educated at Eton, Simon was commissioned into the Rifle Brigade in 1954 and saw operational service in Kenya and Malaya. In 1955 he served as a platoon commander in “I” Company, 1st Battalion The Rifle Brigade (1RB).

While in Kenya, his Company was sent on detachment to an area about 10 miles from the summit of Mount Kenya tracking members of the Mau Mau rebellion. Although their numbers were declining, they were highly skilled at concealing their tracks and hides.

Simon’s platoon specialised in tracking, and experimented with patrols who blacked their faces and wore animal-skin jackets captured from the Mau Mau, living off fish from the local rivers to minimise their own “smell print”.

On one documented mission, with the help of a prisoner he found a hole in the foot of a tree that was being used by high ranking Mau Mau leader Mirioki Kamotho, also known as “General Tanganyika” to post messages. Kamotho was known as one of the most ruthless Mau Mau leaders and in attempt to trap him, Simon “posted” a letter written by the prisoner suggesting a meeting.

The next morning, the box contained a reply from Kamotho, so Simon left some of his riflemen to ambush the letter box and track Tanganyika to his hide with the help of the prisoner and the rest of his patrol. 

At first light, with the patrol closing in on the hide, they heard a rustling in the bushes and saw figures running away. The patrol killed three and found a hide for 10 men, including Kamotho’s spear and bed and despite trying to follow, the trail turned cold.

Kamotho later surrendered to the authorities in March 1954 after an appeal by “General China” who wrote to 26 Mau Mau leaders setting out the Colonial Government’s offers to discuss surrender terms at a forest peace parley.

Simon Horn in Kenya
Simon Horn, front right, with his comrades at Naro Moru in central Kenya in 1955.

Simon received a Mention in Dispatches for “distinguished services” in the six months to April 1956 when the 21-year-old captain and his battalion were redeployed to Malaya, where his tracking expertise was so successful that he became an instructor at the Jungle Warfare School at Kota Tinggi, Johore.

After his National Service came to an end in 1957, Simon moved to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, where he worked for the tobacco company, Gallaher. 

This was followed by a spell with Hill Samuel & Co, the merchant bankers, in Johannesburg, and two years in Nigeria with the British American Tobacco Company. After returning to England he worked for a time in stockbroking.

In 1969 he commissioned British goldsmith Louis Osman to make a number of 22-carat gold models of the Moon to celebrate the Apollo’s lunar landing which were given to the astronauts and Rose Kennedy.

He rented an office in Beauchamp Place, London during the late 1970’s from where he launched a business selling French classical beds and in 1988 married Prue Wellby, who survives him.

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