Horses 8

By December, Percy’s battery and the others at Witley had their four-legged transports. But where did all these horses (and mules) come from? Both Britain and Canada had a Remount Service, whose task was to find and purchase horses. The table below is taken from Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War (1922).

Remount statistics

When war began and the army mobilized, it took Remounts twelve days to raise the number of available horses in from 25,000 to 165,000. (1) The speed was assisted by the fact that the animals were impressed – that is, one could not refuse to sell one’s animal to the army.  Even a nearly sevenfold increase in reserves was insufficient – and of course, there was wastage. “Wastage” seems to include the discovery that some of the requisitioned beasts were not suitable, as well as the fact that death and disease took a heavy toll.
1916 02 22
The army began to look abroad. Not only did Canadians bring boatloads of horses with them, but the British sent purchasers abroad to buy horses in the open market.  In the words of the writer of the Statistics of the Military Effort,  these purchasing commissions consisted, not of officers who were needed on more strictly military duty, but of individuals who might be expected to be knowledgeable about horseflesh: “country gentlemen, large landowners, and competent masters of hounds.” (1)

This advertisement appeared on the front page of Toronto’s The Globe, February 22, 1916. (2) Note that no light-coloured horses are acceptable: the camouflage of mud goes only so far in making horses harder to see. Nevertheless, the 60th Battery, you will recall, had made strenuous efforts in the autumn of 1916 to assemble teams of greys. By 1918, however, Galtrey notes “Shattered is the notion that greys are not desirable for modern war because they are too conspicuous. This is the era of camouflage, with its devices and weird tricks to deceive.” (3) Or perhaps nearly three years later, the need was so great that Remounts could not be quite so choosy.

(1) Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War 1914-1920. London: HMSO 1920. 396.
(2) The Globe (1844-1936). Archive available from ProQuest Historical Newspapers
(3) Galtrey, Captain Sidney. The Horse and the War. London: Country Life, 1918. 39.


Copyright 2016. See “About this project.”

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