Mules and horses of the Great War

Dorset Echo: GAS ALERT: Gas masks for soldier and horse during the First World War GAS ALERT: Gas masks for soldier and horse during the First World War

Equine roles so vital in 1914-18 conflict WE continue our look at the First World War today, this time with a selection of photographs of the fighting soldiers’ best friends – horses, donkeys and mules.

At the start of the war, horses were one of the main methods of transportation to the front. They were used for pulling guns, for cavalry charges and for shipping supplies of food, medical equipment, ammunition and just about everything else to the troops, the Tommies.

As these photographs from the extensive collection at the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester show, if life was hard for the men, it was just as hard – if not moreso – for their equine companions.

Curator Captain Colin Parr said: “It didn’t take long for the Army to start running out of horses because so many were injured and killed, so they started calling up horse ambulances and vets to come out to the front and look after wounded beasts so they could recover and get back to work.”

One of the most famous local horses was Kitty, the mount of Lieutenant Colonel Lord Digby of Minterne.

She went to war with him, took part in the retreat from Mons, survived and returned home to Dorset at the cessation of hostilities where she went on to give birth to several excellent point-to-point and polo ponies.

Kitty was the star attraction of the Horse of the Year Show, where she paraded wearing a specially made coat adorned with medal ribbons, and when she died Lord Digby made one of her hooves into a snuff box.

Members of the Queen’s Own Dorset Yeomanry had to provide their own horses and they were largely all well cared for.

We would love to know more about Dorset’s very own war horses for the commemorative publications we are producing to tie in with the centenary of the First World War. If you have any details, photographs or documents, please get in touch.

 

Writer’s appeal for Nothe photograph

WE WERE wondering if our readers can help Sue Hogben with this quest regarding Weymouth’s Nothe Fort and an important photograph.

Sue writes: “I'm currently writing about the Nothe, and the military that were based there, and how their lives in Weymouth and those of the locals became entwined. At the moment I'm researching the Second World War and part of that research turned up an interesting fact.

“In 1942 Weymouth Corporation was given a picture that was originally hung in their offices, it was given by the Royal Artillery who were based at the Nothe to commemorate Weymouth and Portland's part in the Battle of Britain.

“On Thursday, January 8 1942, a framed picture representing a local incident in the Battle of Britain on August 11 1940 was accepted by the Mayor at a meeting of Weymouth Town Council as a gift from Councillor or Captain G P Ewens, Royal Artillery, senior gun control officer for Weymouth and Portland.

“The incident portrayed was a day in which 175 enemy aircraft made a mass attack on Portland and Weymouth. The picture was to be placed in the Municipal Offices.

“I would love to have copy of this picture in my book, as it shows the links between the military and the town, only problem is no one knows where this picture is now.”

Sue says she has contacted the mayor’s office but to no avail.

So do any of our readers have an idea where the picture might be? If you do, please get in touch.

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