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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Horsfall, Alfred Herbert (1871–1944)

by Anthony D. White

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Alfred Herbert Horsfall (1871-1944), military surgeon, was born on 29 January 1871 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, third son of Yorkshire-born Jonas Horsfall, head-teacher at the United Methodist Common School, Fitzroy, and his wife Emily, née Nichols, from Tasmania. He attended Scotch College and the University of Melbourne (M.S., B.S., 1893), then, after a posting as resident surgeon at the (Royal) Melbourne Hospital, moved to Newcastle, New South Wales, where he was a medical practitioner and medical superintendent at Newcastle Hospital. He contributed to local public affairs, becoming an alderman and president of the Newcastle Scientific Society.

In January 1900 Horsfall was commissioned lieutenant in the 2nd New South Wales Army Medical Corps Contingent which had been speedily raised for service in the South African War. Arriving at East London late in February, the unit was soon in action, Horsfall being the first to come under fire when he rode to the assistance of a wounded policeman. During his twelve-month tour he was in operations in the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. He was also attached briefly to the 1st Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, as medical officer, and for his service in South Africa was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order. On returning home he resumed practice at Newcastle and on 21 April 1903 at All Souls Anglican Church, Leichhardt, Sydney, married Gertrude Emily Stokes.

Horsfall served with the Australian Army Medical Corps in the Newcastle district until his resignation in the rank of major in 1914. During World War I he enlisted in the British Army (Territorials). In October 1915 he was appointed a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked at Salonika, Greece, until February 1916. He became officer-in-charge of sanitation in the Suez Canal zone and until January 1917 was also a surgeon specialist at Alexandria, Egypt. He was invalided to England from January to August 1917, then served as a surgeon specialist with casualty clearing stations in Palestine until he was again evacuated with illness. From March to October 1918 he was officer-in-charge of the surgical division, 82nd General Hospital, Salonika.

After the war Horsfall settled in England, living at various times in Kent, Nottingham and London, but for the rest of his life he travelled widely, studying anthropology, ethnology and politico-economic conditions. He had a deep attachment to the British Empire and gave lectures and wrote pamphlets stressing the British character of the Dominions and promoting migration within the Empire. In 1923-26 he visited Australia, advocating migration and closer settlement. He became a lecturer for the Social and Political Education League and a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died on 26 November 1944 in London.

Select Bibliography

  • J. C. Redpath et al, Story of South Africa (Syd, 1902)
  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • University of Melbourne, Record of Active Service (Melb, 1926)
  • London Gazette, 27 Sept 1901.

Citation details

Anthony D. White, 'Horsfall, Alfred Herbert (1871–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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