Horses 7

By the end of the Great War, it is estimated that over a million horses, mules and donkeys were in the service of the British and Empire expeditionary forces on all fronts, nearly half a million of them in France. (1) Many of them died — different sources give different figures, none less than a quarter of a million (1,2).

Horses were vulnerable to disease as well as to injury from their work in difficult territory and, of course, from shelling.There were no trenches for animals.

horse in a dugout small


At least, not usually. This image (3) shows a pair of German soldiers sheltering in a dugout with their horse.

The Army Veterinary Corps kept the casualties from escalating. It treated two and a half million cases, and returned 80% of them to active service. (4)  So exemplary was its contribution to the “reduction of animal wastage, an increased mobility of mounted units and a mitigation of animal suffering” that King George V conferred the prefix Royal upon the Corps. (4)

(2) Western Front Association
(4) Army Medical Services Museum

Copyright 2016. See “About this project.”

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