The War Horses: The Tragic Fate of a Million Horses Sacrificed in The First World War by Simon Butler
Model Number: 9780857040848
It is estimated that ten million fighting men, almost 800,000 of them British, died in the First World War. Only a fraction of those who were killed have a known grave; thousands were simply blown into fragments or lie buried, their graves unknown, in foreign soil. Alongside this tide of human cannon fodder was formed an equally large army of horse and mules – transport animals and cavalry mounts essential to the bloody business ahead. While men cheerfully volunteered in their tens of thousands, similar numbers of horses were being stripped from farms, liveries, hunt stables and from private ownership, packed on to ships and sent overseas. Over 8 millions animals were thus engaged in the war worldwide. On the Western Front over a million horses died. Of the total in use by the British Army alone, themselves numbering almost a million, only around 60,000 are said to have been returned to Britain at the war’s end.
This book tells the story of the part these animals played in the war, and of the consequences of the conflict which alter led to the decline of horses in the British landscape and the final fracturing of a timeless bond between man and the working horse. It concentrates upon those groups of animals who were requisitioned rather than those ‘professionally’ employed by the cavalry, in other words the horses and mules who took on the drudgery of heaving rations, guns and munitions up to the front line, returning with wounded and maimed men. It contrasts the lives the animals would have known in peacetime with the conditions they were thrust into in and around the lines of battle. It draws upon photographs and personal accounts illustrate the actuality of war and the part played by the horse in that madness described as ‘The War to End all War’.