It’s the 100 year anniversary of Gallipoli (WWI) where countless lives were lost.. both human and equine. Here at Baroque Horse we would like to pay our deepest respect to all those that fought for our country and the freedom we enjoy today.
I think its important that the service horses played in war is not forgotten too.
We would like to share this information about horses in War..
THE HORSE IN THE WAR
The Boer War.
Around 16,000 Australians volunteered to fight for Britain against the Dutch-Afrikaner, or Boer, settlers in South Africa from 1899 to 1902. It remains Australia’s third-worst conflict in terms of casualties. The first Australian troops and their horses sailed in late 1899 and were involved in major action by January 1900.
The main commercial and strategic reasons for the war were that the British wanted the gold mines of the Boer states.
The British Army purchased horses and mules from all over the world for service in the Boer War in South Africa:
Great Britain 87,000 horses South America 6,544 horses
Canada 14,621 horses Australia/New Zealand 23,028 horses
Austria/Hungary 64,517 horses United States of America 109,878 horses 90,524 mules
South Africa 3,062 horses India 1,114 mules
Spain 15,229 mules Italy 7,004 mules
Cyprus 128 mules Uganda 306 mules
Total Animals 602,955
Sir Fredrick Smith’s book “A Veterinary History of the War in South Africa 1899 to 1902” gives figures for casualties of horses as a daily loss of 336 and a total loss of 326,000 for the war. The 6th Inniskilling Dragoons lost 1 horse for every 3 miles the Regiment traveled, a total of 3,800 horses; the regiment started the campaign with about 680 horses the average size of a mounted unit at that time.
Because of this horrific loss of horses during the Boer War, the British Army totally reorganized its Veterinary and Remount services which were small, haphazard and generally unit controlled so were anywhere from very good to extremely poor.
World War 1(The Great War) 1914-1918
By the end of August 1917 there were over 360,000 horses serving in France and Flanders as cavalry and draught and pack animals. Thousands of these animals were killed or wounded by gas, artillery and machine-gun fire, while many others succumbed to fatigue and disease.
left Illustrations. During the war Fortunino Matania mainly worked for the British magazine ‘the Sphere’ as their star illustrator, usually producing one full page illustration or more per weekly issue, often for the opening cover page.
This is one of Matania’s most famous war-time illustrations. It was published in countless magazines worldwide during the war and afterwards. A bit melodramatic for present day tastes perhaps, such scenes must nevertheless have been experienced by soldiers countless times during the war, which perhaps goes a long way towards explaining the illustration’s popularity.
Right: a French version, slightly altered .
Australian War Horses
With the outbreak of the 1st World War on 4 August 1914, Australia offered 20,000 troops to Britain. Four Lighthorse Regiments of 600 men were raised and one of the requirements to join was to provide your own horse which, if deemed suitable, was purchased from you by the army. The army now had a dilemma. Draught and pack animals were needed to make up the requirements for the new field artillery, engineer, signal and transport units. These draught and pack animals were now purchased from the same sources as they had in previous years been hired from (Livery stables, Farmers and Coaching services).
In France, all the horses needed by the ANZAC’s were supplied by Britain which also supplied horses to Belgium and 6,000 to the American’s when they arrived in 1917.
Where did all these horses come from for the War in France and Palestine?
The following list is only a generalization,
Australia/New Zealand 110,000
Great Britain 468,323
North America 1,000,000 (horses and mules)
South America 175,000 (horses and mules)
China 20,000 (mules)
Spain 17,500 (mules; some horses)
Total 1,790,823 horses/mules
Horses/mules were lost at an alarming rate during the 4 years of the war. British Commonwealth Forces lost about 550,000 animals in France and Palestine and the French lost about 900,000 in France alone.
The continued resupply of horses was a major issue of the war. One estimate puts the number of horses that served in World War I at around six million, with a large percentage of them dying due to war-related causes. In 1914, estimates put Britain’s horse population at between 20,000 and 25,000. This shortfall required the US to help with remount efforts, even before it had formally entered the war. Between 1914 and 1918, the US sent almost one million horses overseas, and another 182,000 were taken overseas with American troops. This deployment seriously depleted the country’s equine population. Only 200 returned to the US, and 60,000 were killed outright. By the middle of 1917, Britain had procured 591,000 horses and 213,000 mules, as well as almost 60,000 camels and oxen. Britain’s Remount Department spent £67.5 million on purchasing, training and delivering horses and mules to the front. The British Remount Department became a major multinational business and a leading player in the international horse trade, through supplying horses to not only the British Army but also to Canada, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, and even a few to the US. Shipping horses between the US and Europe was both costly and dangerous; American Expeditionary Force officials calculated that almost seven times as much room was needed per ton for animals than for average wartime cargo, and over 6,500 horses and mules were drowned or killed by shell fire on Allied ships attacked by the Germans. In turn, New Zealand lost around 3 percent of the nearly 10,000 horses shipped to the front during the war.
Due to the high casualty rates, even the well-supplied American army was facing a deficit of horses by the final year of the war. After the American First Army, led by General John J. Pershing, pushed the Germans out of the Argonne Forest in late 1918, they were faced with a shortage of around 100,000 horses, effectively immobilizing the artillery. When Pershing asked Ferdinand Foch, Marshal of France, for 25,000 horses, he was refused. It was impossible to obtain more from the US, as shipping space was limited, and Pershing’s senior supply officer stated that “the animal situation will soon become desperate.” The Americans, however, fought on with what they had until the end of the war, unable to obtain sufficient supplies of new animals.
Before World War I, Germany had increased its reserves of horses through state-sponsored stud farms and annuities paid to individual horse breeders. These breeding programs were designed specifically to provide high-quality horses and mules for the German military. These efforts, and the horse-intensive nature of warfare in the early 20th century, caused Germany to increase the ratio of horses to men in the army, from one to four in 1870 to one horse to three men in 1914.
The breeding programs allowed the Germans to provide all of their own horses at the beginning of the war. Horses were considered army reservists; owners had to register them regularly, and the army kept detailed records on the locations of all horses.
In the first weeks of the war, the German army mobilized 715,000 horses and the Austrians 600,000. Overall, the ratio of horses to men in Central Powers nations was estimated at one to three.
The only way Germany could acquire large numbers of horses after the war began was by conquest. More than 375,000 horses were taken from German-occupied French territory for use by the German military. Captured Ukrainian territory provided another 140,000.
The Ardennes horse was used to pull artillery for the French and Belgian armies. Their calm, tolerant disposition, combined with their active and flexible nature, made them an ideal artillery horse. The breed was considered so useful and valuable that when the Germans established the Commission for the Purchase of Horses in October 1914 to capture Belgian horses, the Ardennes was one of two breeds specified as important, the other being the Brabant.
The Germans were not able to capture the horses belonging to the Belgian royal family, as they were successfully evacuated, although they captured enough horses to disrupt Belgian agriculture and breeding programs. Horses used for the transport of goods were also taken, resulting in a fuel crisis in Belgium the next winter as there were no horses to pull coal wagons. The Germans sold some of their captured horses at auction.
How the Horse helped to win the war
Prevented by the Allies from importing remounts, the Germans ultimately ran out of horses, making it difficult for them to move supplies and artillery, a factor contributing to their defeat.
Casualties and upkeep
Battle losses of horses were approximately 25 percent of all war-related equine deaths between 1914 and 1916. Disease and exhaustion accounted for the remainder and the Germans specifically targeted horses with gunfire. The highest death rates were in East Africa, where in 1916 alone deaths of the original mounts and remounts accounted for 290% of the initial stock numbers, mainly due to infection from the tsetse fly.
On average, Britain lost about 15 percent (of the initial military stock) of its animals each year of the war (killed, missing, died or abandoned), with losses at 17 percent in the French theatre. This compared to 80 percent in the Crimean War, 120 percent in the Boer War and 10 percent in peacetime.
During some periods of the war, 1,000 horses per day were arriving in Europe as remounts for British troops, to replace horses lost. Some horses, having collapsed from exhaustion, drowned in ankle-deep mud, too tired to lift their heads high enough to breathe.
Equine casualties were especially high during battles of attrition, such as the 1916 Battle of Verdun between French and German forces. In one day in March, 7,000 horses were killed by long-range shelling on both sides, including 97 killed by a single shot from a French naval gun.
By 1917, Britain had over a million horses and mules in service, but harsh conditions, especially during winter, resulted in heavy losses, particularly amongst the Clydesdale horses, the main breed used to haul the guns. Over the course of the war, Britain lost over 484,000 horses, one horse for every two men. A small number of these, 210, were killed by poison gas.
Feeding horses was a major issue, and horse fodder was the single largest commodity shipped to the front by some countries,including Britain. Horses ate around ten times as much food by weight as a human, and hay and oats further burdened already overloaded transport services.
In 1917, Allied operations were threatened when horse feed rations were reduced after German submarine activity restricted supplies of oats from North America, combined with poor Italian harvests. The British rationed hay and oats, although their horses were still issued more than those from France or Italy.
The Germans faced an even worse fodder crisis, as they had underestimated the amount of food they needed to import and stockpile before the beginning of the war.
Sawdust was mixed with food during times of shortage to ease animals’ sense of hunger, and many animals died of starvation. Some feed was taken from captured territories on the Eastern Front, and more from the British during the advances of the 1918 spring offensive.
Animals bolstered morale at the front, due to the soldiers’ affection for them. Some recruitment posters from World War I showcased the partnership between horse and man in attempts to gain more recruits. Despite the boost in morale, horses could also be a health hazard for the soldiers, mainly because of the difficulty of maintaining high levels of hygiene around horses, which was especially noted in camps in Egypt.
Horse manure was commonplace in the battle and staging areas on several fronts, creating breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects. Manure was supposed to be buried, but fast-moving battle conditions often made this impossible. Sanitation officers were responsible for the burial of horse carcasses, among other duties.
Many horses died as a result of the conditions at the front—of exhaustion, drowning, becoming mired in mud and falling in shell holes. Other horses were captured after their riders were killed. Horses also endured poor feeding and care, poison gas attacks that injured their respiratory systems and skin, and skin conditions such as mange.
When gas warfare began in 1915, nose plugs were improvised for the horses to allow them to breathe during attacks. Later, several types of gas masks were developed by both the Central and Allied nations, although horses often confused them with feedbags and destroyed them. Soldiers found that better-bred horses were more likely to suffer from shell shock and act up when exposed to the sights and sounds of war than less-well-bred animals, who often learned to lie down and take cover at the sound of artillery fire.
Veterinary hospitals were established to assist horses in recovering from shell shock and battle wounds, but thousands of equine corpses still lined the roads of the Western Front. In one year, 120,000 horses were treated for wounds or disease by British veterinary hospitals alone.
Ambulances and field veterinary hospitals were required to care for the horses, and horse trailers were first developed for use on the Western Front as equine ambulances.
Disease was also a major issue for horses at the front, with equine influenza, ringworm, sand colic, sores from fly bites, and anthrax among the illnesses that affected them. British Army Veterinary Corps hospitals treated 725,216 horses over the course of the war, successfully healing at least 529,064.
When the war ended, many horses were killed due to age or illness, while younger ones were sold to slaughterhouses or to locals, often upsetting the soldiers who had to give up their beloved mounts.
There were 13,000 Australian horses remaining at the end of World War I, but due to quarantine restrictions, they could not be shipped back to Australia. Two thousand were designated to be killed, and the remaining 11,000 were sold, most going to India as remounts for the British Army.
Of the 136,000 horses shipped from Australia to fighting fronts in the war, only one, Sandy, was returned to Australia. New Zealand horses were also left behind; those not required by the British or Egyptian armies were shot to prevent maltreatment by other purchasers.
The horses left behind did not always have good lives – the Brooke Trust was established in 1930 when a young British woman arrived in Cairo, only to find hundreds of previously Allied-owned horses living in poor conditions, having been sold to Egyptians after the cessation of the war.
In 1934, the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital was opened by the trust, and is estimated to have helped over 5,000 horses that had served in World War I; as of 2011, the hospital continues to serve equines in the Cairo area.
By the 1860’s to 1870’s approximately 40,000 horses a year from Australia were being sold to the British Army in India By the 1880’s this figure had risen to 50,000. The large majority of these would have been draught animals for pulling guns and supply wagons as well as pack animals.
Cobb and Co. bred what were called coachers, a cross between a standard bred or trotter and a draught horse with possibly some thoroughbred in the strain as well. These horses were between 14.5 and 16 hands tall, wide chested strong and muscular, well known for their speed and stamina. These horses proved so successful that they were in great demand by the British Army in India and thousands upon thousands of surplus Cobb and Co. horses were exported to the Indian remount service. The British Army in India considered these New South Wales horses (it did not matter from which state they came from) the best they could get and always demanded “Walers” for their best Troops. Riding horses, gun horses, light draught, heavy draught, packhorses and polo ponies were all known as Walers.
At War’s End
At the end of the war, quarantine and cost determined that no horses would be officially returned to Australia so horses were categorized and disposed of in the most cost effective way. In France horses belonging to Australia were categorized as X, Y and Z in addition there was a class D. In reality due to such large numbers of horses available to the British Army, virtually all of the Australian horses were classified Y, Z and D.
Class X animals Transferred to British Army
Class Y animals 11,539 Sent to remount depot for sale to farmers in England
Class Z animals 8,194 Sold direct to farmers in France/Belgium
Class D animals 1,543 Sold to Butchers in France/Belgium
In Palestine horses were classified as A, B, C and D.
Class A animals Transferred to the British Army
Class B animals Sent to remount depot; British occupation forces in Palestine
Class C animals Made available to the Indian Army
Class D animals Destroyed.
Training Horses for War
Training horses to cover riflemen 1919
Information via Wikipedia