Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Huth, DSO, MC, one of the truly great warriors of the 8th Hussars, died at his home in Co. Waterford on 5th October 1987 after suffering an illness that he bore with the same stoical indifference to personal feelings that characterized his whole life.
Percival Henry Huth was born on 5th November 1915, was educated at Eton and Sandhurst and commissioned into the 8th Hussars in 1935, joining the Regiment in Cairo the following year shortly after it had lost its horses and become mechanized.
For the next twenty-five years, in peace and war, he devoted his life to the service of his country and his Regiment, always with modesty in his achievements but often with conspicuous gallantry.
In the early days of World War II about of pleurisy, the loss of lung and a long spell in hospital almost ended his military career before it had begun, but he came back to serve in Palestine with the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, and on an attachment to the Druze Legion.
He returned to the Regiment in time for the serious desert battles and made his worth known during the desperate fighting around Bir Hacheim in 1942, where the 8th Hussars suffered so grievously and he was awarded the MC. After this battle he led a group on foot sixteen miles across the desert to safety and then went back, at great risk, to rescue the wounded he had been compelled to leave behind.
After the battle of El Alamein and the end of the Desert War, he came back to England with the Regiment to prepare for the invasion of Europe.
From Normandy to Hamburg he was always in the thick of things as a Squadron Leader; after the fierce battle round Briquessard he again went back to do his best for the wounded and the dead, and in the breakout from the bridgehead, and later at Livarot and St Pol he showed qualities of calm courage and leadership second to none.
He received the bar to his MC from Field Marshal Montgomery at Briee, and not long after led his Squadron, carrying Commandos on the backs of its tanks, across snow-covered fields to liberate the Dutch town of Linne, an event which was commemorated there in 1985 when he was invited to attend a ceremony of naming a street ‘Majoor Huthstraat’ in his honour.
When the war in Europe finally ended he was sent to India to the Staff College at Quetta. Various staff appointments followed, including a spell in Kenya, where his father lived, before the outbreak of war in Korea brought him back into action once again.
It was there that he performed his epic feat of gallantry, with a dedicated ‘C’ Squadron, at the battle of the Imjin River which saved the Northumberland Fusiliers, The Royal Ulster Rifles and the Belgian battalion from encirclement by the Chinese masses, and for which he was awarded an immediate DSO.
That was not, however, the end of his operational career for he commanded the Kenya Armoured Car Squadron during the Mau Mau troubles, before being occupied on more mundane staff appointments.
In 1956 he returned once again to Germany and became the last Commanding Officer of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars before Amalgamation.
This task drew on all his qualities of simplicity, of sympathy, of unselfishness and of co-operation, which he possessed in abundance, and which helped to carry through the Amalgamation with such exemplary results. He retired from the Army in 1960.
Returning to his home in Kenya he served as Military Secretary to the Governor before retiring and becoming a Queen’s Messenger. This occupied his restless soul for the next ten years, but with air travel, he found the role had lost much of its reputation for intrigue and glamour.
At his Memorial Service held at St . George’s, Hanover Square on 4th November the address was given by Major Jack Comyn MBE, who had been with him at Sandhurst, joined the 8th Hussars on the same day and was his best man when he married.
To quote from one of the concluding passages of his address:
‘. . . From later employment as a Queen’s Messenger, he took up farming with the same enthusiasm and indeed professionalism that he had shown in his earlier career . . . He worked his farm, bred and rode and hunted his young horses, single-handed, . . . until he married Molly, who not only gave enormous support to his farming but provided in abundance the happy married life that he had hitherto lacked . . . I could not help observing, when I saw him in Ireland, that he inspired in his farming neighbours the same respect, I would say devotion, that he had evoked in the past‘.
Throughout a long career, Henry did indeed inspire both respect and devotion, and his loss will be keenly felt, not only by the dwindling band of 8th Hussars but by many others, in many countries, and in all walks of life.
23346369 Corporal Sankey writes:
I joined the Eight Hussars in 1956 as a reluctant National Serviceman, but I wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything, largely due to having met and worked for the late, never to be forgotten, Lt Colonel, Henry Huth.
Since I only reached the dizzy heights of Corporal we were never level in rank but he treated me as an equal in every way.
After spending some time in ‘A’ Squadron as a wireless operator in a beloved Centurion, my troop commander Cornet Brooks discovered my father kept a pub and whisked me into the officers’ mess from whence I left to drive Colonel Henry. I also had to take care of his kit but since he had a maid named Martha, who took care of the washing and ironing which didn’t go to the laundry, and all his leather kit was so immaculate, I really had little to do until he decided it was time I ‘wire wooled’ the parquet floor in the house and re-polished it.
Dinner was always exciting because Martha and I hardly ever knew exactly how many people would arrive. With dinner at 1930 hours, Colonel Henry would often poke his head through the dining room hatch at 1900 hours to tell us there would be one, two, three or sometimes four more to dinner. Martha and I often had a quick change of menu and the guests never knew of the panic in the kitchen!
On manoeuvre, Colonel Henry was at his best as far as I was concerned because he used to enjoy the ‘action’ and being close to his men; he often sent me off to drive any vehicle available to take ‘mail’ or ‘rations’.
Once, when driving him on a manoeuvre I think he was dozing. At the bottom of a steep hill ahead of us, I saw some chickens on the road. ‘Shall I get one?’ I asked, and I swear he said ‘yes’, but when I missed he was cross, or at least I think it was because I missed!
My lasting impression of him was the way he commanded respect from everyone. I felt he was a shy man basically, but a lovely gentleman who will be sadly missed by all those who, like me, had the great pleasure of meeting him. God rest your soul, Colonel Henry, you were a credit to the human race.
- A short history of The 8th Hussars
- Middle East (Egypt and Libya) timeline
- North West Europe 1944-45 timeline
- Korea 1950-51
- Citation and Immediate Award of the Distinguished Service Order: Maj PH Huth
- Citation and Award of the Military Cross: Maj PH Huth
- Citation and Award of an Immediate Bar to the Military Cross: Maj PH Huth