Kenneth Horner was born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire on 20 June 1939 and worked as a butcher's assistant before joining the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class aboard H.M.S. Ganges and H.M.S. Curacoa from 13 Sep 1941. On 2 Oct 1942, the famous R.M.S. Queen Mary was sailing off the coast of Ireland. She had been painted battleship grey for her use as a troopship, earning the nickname "The Grey Ghost". In setting a zigzag course to help evade U-boats, the "Queen Mary" had caught up with her 4,290 tonne escort vessel, the Royal Navy's H.M.S. Curacoa, and was set to overtake her. Sensing a collision, Curacoa's Captain ordered “Starboard 15°", followed a few moments later by “Hard-a-Port” in Queen Mary. Shortly before 14:12 Queen Mary struck the port side of Curacoa some 150 feet forward of her stern, throwing her round and cutting her in two. She sank almost at once with a large number of seamen left in the freezing waters.
Tragically, the Captain of the Queen Mary was under orders to stop for nothing, so sent distress signals for nearby ships, but left the sailors to their fate, resulting in the loss of three hundred and thirty-one of her crew of four hundred and thirty. In January 1947, the Admiralty brought an action for damages against the Cunard White Star Company. The Admiralty appealed against this decision and in July 1947 the Court of Appeal altered the finding of the lower court to the extent that two- thirds of the blame was attributed to Curacoa and one-third to Queen Mary. Still convinced that there was a good case, the Admiralty took it to the highest tribunal, the House of Lords. Here on the 8th February, 1949, the Appellate Committee of five Law Lords dismissed the appeal and upheld the finding the Court of Appeal.
Signalman Kenneth Horner is remembered at Chatham Memorial.
View a video of the Queen Mary-H.M.S. Curacoa memorabilia.