Military Use of Horse

Topics: World War I, British Army, United Kingdom Pages: 32 (10272 words) Published: January 3, 2013
The Past and Present Society

Britain's Military Use of Horses 1914-1918 Author(s): John Singleton Source: Past & Present, No. 139 (May, 1993), pp. 178-203 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Past and Present Society Stable URL: Accessed: 28/07/2009 08:48 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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In that understandablyneglected volume, Animal War Heroes, written in 1933, the story is told of seven gun horses attachedto F Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. They were shipped to France in August 1914 and took part in the retreat from Mons, the battlesof First and SecondYpres, Festubert,AubersRidge, Vimy Ridge, the Somme, Hill 70 and Cambrai,as well as the desperate campaignsof 1918, collectinga numberof woundsalong the way. On 8 August 1918 they furtherdistinguishedthemselvesby rescuing some stranded guns during a German attack. F Battery's horses survived to retire to England where they entertained friendsby balancingsugarlumps on their front hoofs and tossing them into their mouths.1 On the eve of the GreatWarthe Britisharmy possesseda mere 25,000 horses, but by the middle of 1917 it had 591,000 horses, 213,000 mules, 47,000 camels and 11,000 oxen. Between 1914 and 1920 the Remount Department spent £67.5 million on the purchase,trainingand delivery to the front of horsesand mules.2 Once these animalsjoined their units, they needed to be fed and watered,and when they fell sick or were wounded they required and often received a high standardof veterinarycare. The ability reconnaisto mobilize a vast force of animalsfor transportation, sance and raidingpurposeswas crucialto the efficientconduct of war in the early twentieth century. Horses were as indispensable to the war effort as machine guns, dreadnoughts,railways and heavy artillery,yet because of our fascinationwith the history of technology we never give them a second thought. The only * I am obliged to Dudley Baines, Brian Bond, Terry Gourvish, Bill Kennedy, John King, Ralph Turvey, Richard Wilson, and seminar participantsat the L.S.E. and the Universities of Edinburgh and Manchester, for helpful comments at earlier stages of this work. All remaining errors are my own. 1 P. S. Baker, Animal War Heroes (London, 1933), pp. 14-17. 2 Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empireduringthe Great War, 1914-20 (London, 1922), pp. 397, 400.



comparablestudy is DiNardo and Bay's account of horse-drawn transportin the Germanarmy in World War Two.3 The pages of the Illustrated London News show how the image

of the horse's place in war evolved between 1914 and 1918....
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