On the night of 17/18 July 1944, Lieutenant Horsburgh commanded a patrol at Caen sent to gather information on the River Orne, so that bridges could be constructed immediately after the assault crossing. On the far bank of the river, within 160 feet of his position, there were strong enemy posts including machine gun emplacements. On the near bank, enemy patrols were actively searching for our reconnaissance parties.
In spite of the considerable opposition, and knowing that the enemy could observe and hear his movements, he made a thorough reconnaissance of possible bridging sites, going into the river to obtain all the necessary engineering data. On two occasions, he was detected by the enemy and was subjected to a shower of grenades and small arms fire, but with the greatest gallantry, determination and skill, he continued and completed his task. The information that he obtained enabled a complete and detailed plan to be made before the river line had been captured. As a consequence, the bridge was built and completed within a few hours of the assault crossing, enabling carriers and mechanical transport to get across the river and exploit the attack deep into the enemy territory.
John Horsburgh was a gold medallist in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba. After serving his country in war, he served his province as a senior hydraulics engineer for the Province of Manitoba. John was a visionary in the water resources branch who foresaw the need for a Red River Floodway. After having dodged death in the war, he was on 21 July 1952 at the age of 33 in a float plane crash in northern Manitoba. Six other men died with him, all of whom were also war veterans employed by the province, and all but one of whom left behind widows and young children. There is a plaque on the halls of the Legislative Building that features a Norseman float plane flying in the clouds.
The photo of Lt Horburgh, Sgt. Clifford Hebner and WOII Cormack was taken in Normandy. Sgt. Clifford Hebner, MM was tragically killed in Belgium on 5 October 1944, while trying to defuse a German land mine. He is buried in a cemetery near Antwerp, Belgium. He was only 32 years old and was married. He won the MM south of Caen on 7 August 1944, in support of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, within 50 metres of the enemy line.