The Real War Horse

Articles

History of horses during WWI

When war began in 1914 the British army possessed a mere...

The Real War Horse

The Real War Horse tells the epic story of the life and death of the horses, mules and donkeys that assisted the British Army in World War I. Of the one million sent to the Western Front during the conflict, only 67,000 returned home, with 933,000 tragically dying.

This chapter of war history has recently captured the public imagination with the huge success of West End play War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel of the same name. Using footage from the stage play and dramatic reconstruction, alongside interviews with Michael Morpurgo and other key figures behind the play, the harsh realities of the horses' war experience is brought vividly to life.

Related: The history of horses in warfare

Rare, high quality black and white archive, alongside fascinating footage on the work of the RSPCA, the Army Veterinary Corps and horse hospitals in World War I, compliments this. Imminent World War I historian Richard van Emden also reveals interesting information about the role of horses in the war.

At the heart of the film is the deeply moving testimony of the last survivors who worked with and rode horses during the war. They were filmed exclusively for this show over the past ten years. Those featured include Smiler Marshall (Essex Yeomanry), Norman Cowan (Northumberland Hussars), Alfred Henn (Warwickshire Horse Artillery) Bill Cotgrove (Essex Horse Artillery), GB Jamieson (1st Northumberland Hussars Yeomanry in British Expeditionary Force, 1914) and others.

All these elements combine to create a lasting tribute to the horses and the horsemen, revealing the vital role they played in the survival and final victory of the Allied armed forces.

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