38478 Captain Colin Bruce Hornig - New Zealand Engineers

The Hornig family of German / English origins came out to New Zealand in the mid 1870’s settling in Takaka, Nelson
where Charles Aldolphus Hornig owned a bakery.

During the Second Boer War, two of Charles eldest sons enlisted in the New Zealand Mounted Rifles with William Francis Hornig serving in the 6th Contingent and his older brother John Gainsborough Hornig serving with the 8th Contingent. William is listed as a draper and John as a carpenter.[i]

William Francis Hornig moved to Wellington in the early 1900’s and opened his own drapers store in Cuba Street operating as F W Horning Limited.

On 5th June 1913 William Francis married Francis Higgenbotham and later that year their only child Colin Bruce Hornig was born.  William and Francis separated very early in the relationship and Colin was bought up by his mother. In 1922 the separation was formalised with a divorce.

Colin was raised in Wellington attending Haitaitai School and then Wellington College. He was an excellent student and while at Wellington College won a Junior National Scholarship and a Walter Turnbull Scholarship. He later went on to
attend Victoria University to study for a commerce degree.[ii] He  then  moved to Canterbury where he studied
engineering finally graduating in 1937 with degrees in commerce and engineering.[iii]

Following his graduation Colin was based in Gisborne in
the Public Works Department, working on railway projects
including in 1940 the Kopuawhara River Bridge on the
East Coast Main Trunk railway.[iv]

First train over the Kopuawhara Bridge - C.B. Hornig

When Colin enlisted for service in World War Two he gave his
next of kin as his mother Mrs Francis Hornig of Paremata.
Mrs Hornig had moved out to Paremata in the late 1920’s
early 1930’s where she was involved with the Red Cross and
Womens Institute. Colin also is noted as sailing at the
Paremata Sailing Club and gives Paremata as his home

38478 2nd Lieutenant Colin Bruce Hornig entered military camp on the 15th November 1941 as a member of the 4th Reinforcements, 21st Mechanical Unit. Prior to being shipped to Egypt 2nd Lieutenant Hornig was promoted to Lieutenant Horning.

The 4th Reinforcements arrived in Egypt in March 1941 at this stage the Afrika Korp in the First Battle of El Alamein has successfully expelled the British from Libya and was threatening Egypt and the Suez Canal.   
From the NZ Engineers’ history:[vi]

Lieutenant Colin Bruce Hornig  - 1941 

No. 3 Section (Lieutenant Hornig) endured a few weeks in the ‘bullring’ but were rewarded for their sufferings.  They went to help on the outer defences of Alexandria and levelled
the far bank of the Nubariya canal to provide a field of fire for pillboxes being constructed on the near side. They were quartered in Gianaclis, a small Greek community situated in the middle of acres of grapes.’

In October 1941 following the second Battle of El Alamein the British 8th Army pushed
the Axis forces west into Lybia. There was a need to resupply the army and a railway line was constructed from Alexandria. On 17th January 1942 Lieutenant Hornig was posted to the 10th Railway Operating Company which was one of the units maintaining the line.
The railway was subject to attack by Axis  aircraft and on the 28th March 1942 the diary of the New Zealand Engineers reported:[vii]

“Mile 28, 0945, No 150 Misheifa-Capuzzo train machine gunned. Construction Group personnel working at this point  also machine gunned, 4 killed and 16 wounded.”

As Lieutenant Horning’s military files indicate that he was a battle casualty on this day it is assumed that he was one of
the wounded as two of the listed men killed on the day, Sappers Gavan & Bailey[viii] were both from the 10th Railway Company. Lieutenant Hornig  was evacuated to the 15th Casualty Clearing Station then the 2nd British General Hospital.
It is possible that while he was in hospital that he meet Sister Ruth Matthews serving as a nurse in the British General Hospital.[ix]

Lieutenant Hornig remained in hospital for a month returning to the NZ Engineers on the 23rd April 1942. On the 6th June 1942 Lieutenant Horning was promoted to Captain.

By November 1942 the conflict in North Africa was over and the focus was on the Italy Campaign. Captain Hornig left from Alexanderia on the 16th December 1942.

In Italy the NZEF moved up from the landing areas and by January 1943 were in front of the German defensive lines at Monte Cassino.  On the 17th February the  28 Maori Battalion crossed the Rapido River south of Cassino and captured the railway station, however they were forced to withdraw the following day due to Germans counter attacks of tanks and infantry.

A decision was made to create access for Allied tanks to support assault and on the 1st March 1944 men from the NZ 5th Field Park Company  provided assistance to Indian Engineers for the task.[x]

‘The job was urgent and the engineers worked until dark, stopping only when rain compelled a halt.
Part of the road could be seen from the German positions but the drilling and blasting went on under
camouflage nets over a framework of poles. As part of his routine of ‘dusting up’ supply tracks the enemy
occasionally harassed the road with shell and mortar fire, killing on 6 March the New Zealand engineer officer
in charge of the work.'
The officer was 38478 Captain Colin Bruce Hornig. He is buried in the
Cassino War Cemetery.

Grave of Captain Colin Bruce Hornig

In memoriam notices were carried by the Evening Post in April 1944.

Colin Bruce Hornig is remembered on the Porirua Roll of Honour.

27805 Sapper David Alexander and 11265 Sapper Stanley James Gavan, 10th Railway Company are listed as being killed on the 28th March 1942.
Porirua men killed in the Italy
173263 Private Selwyn Lloyd Hyde (Tawa ) 3 December 1943
6125 Lieutenant George Katene MM (Porirua) 7 December 1943
35766 Private Lawrence Alfred Parnell (Pukerua Bay) 17 December 1944

New Zealand Engineers, Middle East: New Zealand Electronic Text Collection – The Western Desert Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Paperspast Online
NZ Defence Force Archives
Archway Archives New Zealand: Military Files

The Kopuawhara River Bridge – Evening Post
Captain C B Hornig  – Auckland Cenotaph
The area of the road – Alexander Turnbull

[i] Archway Archives New Zealand Military Files
[ii] Late Capt C B Hornig, 8th April 1944, Evening Post
[iii]  NZ University Graduates : http://shadowsoftime.co.nz
[iv]  Credit Evening Post for C B Hornig’s photo
[v]  NZ Defence Archives Military Files: 38478 Captain Colin Bruce Hornig
[vi] New Zealand Engineers, Middle East  – The Lee of the Storm
[vii] New Zealand Engineers, Middle East – The Desert Railway
[viii] CWGC
[ix] In Memoriam 6 April 1944, Evening Post
[x] New Zealand Engineers, Middle East – Cassino 
Sherman  & crew on  route prepared for tanks to support assaults on Monte Cassino