It is with great sadness that we bring you the news of the passing of…
A film crew spent a day at equine sanctuary The Horse Trust filming a documentary on the use of horses in World War 1, for a programme that is due to be aired on Channel 4 on 12th February.
The Horse Trust runs a sanctuary for rescued and retired working horses, ponies and donkeys, including retired Army horses, in Speen, Buckinghamshire.
The one hour programme, called The Real War Horse, is due to be shown on Channel 4 on 12th February at 9.00 pm (date and time subject to change). The documentary, produced by Testimony Films, will cover the role and welfare of horses in World War 1, which will be contrasted with the present day use of horses in the military. Almost a million horses fought on the Western Front during the war, yet only about 60,000 returned to Britain, the rest either perished in the war, were sold inFrance as work horses, or were simply sold to French butchers.
The Real War Horse programme will cover The Horse Trust’s role in improving the welfare of horses during the war. The charity, which was then known as The Home of Rest for Horses, provided the first motorised horse ambulance to transport wounded horses in France from the front line during the First World War.
According to the charity’s 1916 Annual Report, in two years this ambulance travelled around 13,000 miles and carried in excess of 1,000 injured horses.
The Home of Rest for Horses ambulance, which was the first of its kind worldwide, was so successful that the War Office commissioned additional horse ambulances. By the end of the war, 14 of these vehicles were in operation inFrance.
“The hard work and sacrifice of horses in the Great War is all to easily forgotten, overshadowed by the tragic deaths of nearly a million men of Britain and her Empire on the Western Front. And yet the war could not have been fought without those brave and dependable animals who suffered daily hardships every bit as much as the soldiers they served,” said George Pagliero, Director of Testimony Films. “In all that inhumanity there were those who never forgot; those who campaigned tirelessly to raise funds for equine welfare even while the guns were still blazing; terrific work that gave wounded horses a chance of survival in the hell that was the Great War. This work is continued by The Horse Trust to the present day and is something they can rightly be proud of.”
The documentary crew also filmed a World War 1 wagon being pulled by horses in the fields at the Home of Rest for Horses to demonstrate the strain and impact this work would have had on the horses during the war.
The wagon was provided by theRoyalLogisticsCorpsMuseumin Camberley, while the horses – two black Dutch Friesian horses called Harry and Major – were provided by Funeral Directors T Cribb & Sons. These funeral horses were chosen as they are approximately the same size as the draught horses that would have pulled carts in World War 1 battlefields.
“We’re really excited to be featured in this documentary on the welfare of horses in the First World War. As the oldest horse charity in the world, we have been focusing on the welfare of horses for longer than anyone else,” saidJeanette Allen, Chief Executive of The Horse Trust. “We hope this documentary will raise awareness of the vital role that working horses play – both in the past and present day – and the importance of safeguarding their welfare.”
The Horse Trust depends on the support of the public to offer retirement to working horses. It costs the charity an average of £10 per day to look after each horse at the sanctuary, which includes the costs of grooms, forage, farriery and veterinary care.