HORSES IN BATTLE.
STORIES OF GALLANT 'STEEDS
It has been estimated that nearly 5,000,000 horses have taken part in the great conflict in one way or another, and equine- casualties were often as high as 50,000 in a month. In the "Wide AVorld Magazine," Mr C. W. Forward, an enthusiastic worker in the Blue Cross hospitals'• of France and Italy, tellis what he has seen _of the work and sufferings of pur "faithful, innocent, and indispensable allies, horses and mules.' He says:—
"A driver in tihe Royal Field Artillery who had been driving his horses for three years, and declared that he 'understood them and they, understood him,' related to me the following incident: Early in the retreat from Mons a shell crashed right into the midst, of the section with which he was moving. His gun was wrecked, and the driver in front was blown to bits. As he mounted a "fresh horse he turned and saw two other horses struggling and kicking on the ground to free themselves, but was unable to go back and help them. His feelings were, he declares, indescribable. A French chasseur dashed up and cut the traces, and although their driver was a long way off, the horses galloped after :him, and followed him for four days. They were not needed, but they kept their places in the line like trained soldiers.
"I am sometimes asked if everything is done for pur, dumb allies; whether animal-lovers, at liome can be certain that there is no repetition of the horrors of the past. My answer is in the affirmative. Rest assured that the terrible scenes witnessed and described by the war correspondents of former wars no longer occur in France and Flanders.
After every engagement at the front riderless horses are always rounded up and brought in. Often they are found near their dead masters, or following other riders. It was one of the Coldstream Guards who told how, after the fierce fighting at Loos, a horse was seen standing between the firing-lines. For two whole days he remained there, when some of our men crawled out and found he was standing by the side of the dead body of his rider, the horse himself unharmed. It was with difficulty lie was induced to leave the spot, and only by blindfolding liim could he be persuaded to leave his dead master and return to the British lines:
The great outcry raised about the trials of the horse during the South African War has borne fruit in the
shape of a highly efficient staff of veterinary surgeons provided for by the Blue Cross JL<und. .Regarding the work of the Blue Gross, Mr forward says:— ''i have no hesitation m saying that the operations of this society tor the alleviation of sun:ermg among army hoivse-s are beyond ail praise. Vvhat has been greatly appreciated by the various units in inance, and aiso m Italy, has been the 'Veterinary Uhests' whictt have been Kent out by die score. They contain a carefuAy se^ectsd supply of instruments, bandages, and rugs most frequently needed in giving renef to wounded and sick horses lar removed from tne base of lieid-dressuig stations. In addition to aoove, hundreds of Danclages, wither ' and sheep-sinn ~ pads, ointments, and drugs have also been sent to inti' front lur me benefit of our war horses. Many otner more expensive gifts, such as portable forges, clipping machines, chaffcutters, poul-tice-boots, pocket veterinary cases, special water-troughs, and fomenting pails have also been supplied by the Blue Cross."
The hospitals are without question the largest and most up-to-date institutions of- their kind in existence. Their, very sites were selected with care, and they are all close to running streams so that a plentiful supply of' pure water is always available. They all boast oi: spacious sheltered meadows where the horses can graze freely, iiach hospital has its own operatingroom, pharmacy, sick-wards, and isolated quarters for those animals suffering from some contaminated disease, such as mange. The most common complaint is saddle-sores. In the wear anu tear of war saddles once put on remain on for many days, and as they do not always lit, unequal pressure causes large surface wounds, so that when the saddle is taken off a portion of tne slrin comes away with it. This form of injury accounts for the disabling of a large number of animals, and is not an easy one to deal with.
Going to and fro among the hospitals, Mr Forward naturally came across many stories of the faithfulness, tenacity, and sagacity of the army horses. Their wonderful memories have often been described^ but we now hear, probably for the first time, about a horse suifering from shell-shock. We quote:—
"A very striking instance of, memory came under my personal observation just before our great offensive at. —. Being in want of a fresh mount, 1. had acquired one from a brother officer who was returning to England suffering from shell-shock. He assured me that i could have no better charger on which to ride forward when we advanced. 'As strong and brave as a lion, yet as mild and obedient as a lamb when answering the reins, an absolutely trustworthy steed,' were the owner's words as we concluded our bargain. And, truth to tell, I found nothing to complain of in the behaviour of that mare until one afternoon when, riding out of the ruined village of — in Flanders, I came to a long road where, but a short time before, there had been a beautiful avenue of poplars, now mere stumps. "I had no sooner got half-way down than my horse stood stock still, began to tremble all over, and, with dilated nostrils, refused to go a step farther, until I had applied the spurs. 1 put this incident down to a sudden caprice, and, forgiving her, dismissed it from my mind. But when the same thing happened again a few days later I made a mental note of the fact, and as soon as I got back from the reconnaissance wrote to my friend. His reply solved the mystery. 'Poor Dolly! I had no idea that she was also suffering from shell-shock,' he said, in substance. But she's really not as bad as her old master. The fact of the mater is, it was on that very avenue, near the village of —, that the. shell fell which led to my return to Blighty. She evidently remembers it as keenly as I do. But take her anywhere else than there, and I think you will find she will behave like a thoroughbred lady.'" , More than one instance has been related to me in which horses have endeavoured to save their wounded riders who have fallen by lifting them with their teeth and helping to. drag them to a place of safety. And .the extraordinary sympathy that exists between man and beast has been displayed in innumerable instances where a wounded man unable to mount has managed to hold on to the saddle or harness of an unwounded or only slightly wounded horse, and has thus been sympathetically and understandingly assisted in his progress toward a dressing station.
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HORSES IN BATTLE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9579, 5 April 1919
HORSES IN BATTLE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIX, Issue 9579, 5 April 1919
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