On Wednesday 19th September 2018, HRH, The Princess Royal, unveiled a beautiful bronze statue, “Soldier and Horse” by renowned artist George Bingham that will now serve as the war memorial for the world’s oldest equine charity, The Horse Trust. The event having been timed in the lead up to the centenary of Armistice.
On the outbreak of the Great War two of the charity’s 12 “loan” horses were purchased by the army to serve on the western front. Just under half a million horses were purchased by the army from within the UK, leaving the older, less able horses to do all of the work for a country still very reliant on horse power.
The Horse Trust’s most significant contribution to the war effort was the provision of the first ever, motorised horse ambulance to the western front, which revolutionised the care of sick and injured horses. The ambulance operated out of No.2 Veterinary Hospital, Le Havre and was such a huge success in getting thousands of animals back from the front to the 18 veterinary field hospitals, that the War Office requested 13 more such vehicles from various charities. These ambulances saved the lives of tens of thousands of horses thanks to the Army Veterinary Corps’, (now the Royal Army Veterinary Corps’) 80% success rate in treating sick and injured horses, if the horses could be brought to them quickly enough.
The artist, George Bingham, who created the beautiful memorial now in the centre of The Horse Trust’s main yard in Buckinghamshire, felt The Horse Trust’s story of WW1 was one of survival and that he would look to create a composition that wasn’t about horror, or focused on Officers on their Chargers, rather one that represented an ordinary moment in extraordinary times, yet one that still held relevance to The Horse Trust’s work today.
HRH commented in her address that something that remains as true today as it was then, is how close the bond is between soldier and horse and in The Horse Trust’s modern context, also between police officer and horse or disabled rider or driver and pony.
To mark the historical and ongoing very close relationship between the Military and the Horse Trust, the event closed after HRH had presented bronze maquettes of the statue as lasting gifts from The Horse Trust to Lt. Col. Martyn Thompson, Commanding Officer of the DATR, Maj Harry Wallace, Commanding Officer of The King’s Troop and Maj Harriet Church, Veterinary Officer at the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.