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Posted by on Mar 21, 2017 in Animal Rights, Animals, Journalism, Military, War | 0 comments

Our World War I ‘Horse Heroes’ (Updated)


A couple of notes/afterthoughts:

One of the “grammar things” I struggled with — albeit not for long — in writing the piece below about our Horse Heroes was whether to use “who” or “that” as the relative pronoun when referring to animals in general and to horses specifically.

Depending on what dictionary, grammar or style guide one uses, either is “permissible.”

For example, the Associated Press Stylebook recommends that animals without names should be referred to as that or which, while those with names should be referred to as who.

Apparently, it does not matter whether the animal in question is a horse or a mouse.

Other style manuals say that animals should be referred to as that or which — no exception for animals with names.

I have long ago lost my collegiate dictionary, but communications and language expert Erin Wright writes, “But then there is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says you can! Yes, Merriam-Webster’s third entry for who mentions animals and includes a canine example.”

In a survey of the British National Corpus (BNC), Guilquin and Jacobs find that, out of 20 most frequent animals used with “who,” the dog and horse rank first and second, respectively. Cats come out fourth and pigs 20th.

My non-expert position: If you love, like or respect the animal you are talking or writing about, go ahead live dangerously and refer to him” or “her as “who” or “whom.”

Finally, while plenty has been said and written about those wonderful “therapy dogs” or “comfort dogs,” please read here an article about how horses are also used to help veterans (and family members) cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the Warrior Outreach Ranch.

Original Post:

“Death and devastation made it a hell, the awful fires of which have not yet flickered out. So when you go out beyond and survey the duck-board tracks which lead to where our men are bearing the real burden and dangers of war, you think of our war beasts of burden that night after night traverse that foul and shell-torn country amid the loathsome vapours of the guns in performing their share in ‘carrying on.’ Can you wonder that there is a real affection for the horse and mule, and that they are indeed the friends of man at this tremendous crisis?” — Capt. Sidney Galtrey

I have always loved animals, especially dogs.

No wonder there is a special place in my heart for our “Dog Heroes,” those four-legged warriors called Military Working Dogs, a soldier’s best friend, so often the savior of many soldiers’ lives.

There is another very noble and beloved animal that I also admire, one that plays a role in our military, albeit mostly a ceremonial one these days: the magnificent horse.

Horse-drawn caisson at a military funeral (Photo DoD)

But even in the 21st century, horses have been used in combat. Most notably, we remember how our Special Forces warriors rode them into combat, and to victory, in Afghanistan against the Taliban after 9/11. Doug Stanton tells the riveting story of these brave soldiers and their horses in the epic book “Horse Soldiers.”

This was the first time since World War II that horses had been used in combat by American forces.

At the beginning of that War, even though mechanization of the U.S. Army was well on its way, several thousand horses — and mules — were still used by the cavalry, artillery, supply and logistics branches of our military.

As full mechanization of our forces became a reality in 1942, the brave and proud horse-mounted cavalry officially lost its horses and the displaced horses were returned to Quartermaster Remount Depots in the U.S. “From 1942-1945, only 49 horses were shipped from the United States to the armed forces overseas,” according to Olive-Drab.

Mules, however, continued to be used throughout the War, especially in mountainous regions, over rugged terrain and in the jungles of the Far East that neither horses nor vehicles could negotiate.

It was a much different story during World War I when America and its allies used millions of equines to help win that War — a War in which “America’s one million horses and mules served and sacrificed their lives alongside brave soldiers…”

No wonder that, as part of its mandate to officially commemorate the centennial of our entry into World War I, the World War One Centennial Commission is honoring these “Horse Heroes.”


“who carried men into battle and wounded men to safety. {Who] carried food, water, medical supplies, ammunition, gun carriages and other supplies to the front lines across difficult terrain, in brutal weather, often surrounded by dead and dying men and animals…”

“[whose] contributions were enormous as was their suffering, but without whose loyalty and sacrifices on a massive scale (eight million horses died in WWI, including hundreds of thousands of American horses), the war’s outcome could have been very different.”

Of the approximately one million American horses and mules who served in Europe, only 200 came home after the war.

Those were the fortunate ones.

Brooke USA:

“After having worked so willingly alongside brave soldiers, and miraculously survived the horrors of war, most of the few remaining animals were discarded by their armies and given up for slaughter or sold into lives of hard labor and utter misery.”

To recognize the contributions of America’s horses and mules to the War effort, the Centennial Commission has made Brooke USA’s “Horse Heroes” campaign an official Centennial partner.

The Commission could not have chosen a better organization or a better campaign for such a purpose. Brooke USA along with Brooke International — the world’s largest equine welfare charity — are dedicated to providing sustainable equine welfare programs around the globe in turn benefitting the people who depend on those animals. Brooke USA’s Horse Heroes campaign aims to honor the nearly one million American equines who served in World War I alongside their brave soldiers by raising one million dollars to support the equine programs.

“Brooke,” is named after Dorothy Brooke, the wife of a British cavalry officer, Brigadier Geoffrey Brooke.

Dorothy Brooke

When Dorothy Brooke arrived in Cairo in October 1930 as the new bride of Brigadier Brooke, she came face to face with the tragic lot of these war horses. She soon discovered that several thousand former WWI horses who had served bravely during the War had been abandoned and left behind by the armies after the war, only “to be sold into lives of unimaginable hardship, doomed to lives of unending toil and unspeakable misery, working on the mean streets of Cairo…”

Upon meeting one of those old war horses in particular, Dorothy wrote,

“I shall never forget the shock he gave me. I stood staring at him. Heaven knows the other horses were bad enough but somehow he was different.

“Obviously he had been a good horse, once. He had been happy and well fed as other horses had never been. He had been born in England; had known our green fields, had been groomed and cared for. He had moreover served in Palestine and had suffered hardships in that Campaign as few horses have endured in modern times. And then we had sold him into this.”

One of the former war horses whom Dorothy rescued in 1931 and named “Old Bill,” who became the mascot of her work and ultimately the means of saving his fellow war horses in Egypt.

Those encounters in Cairo came to define Dorothy’s life and she dedicated herself to work towards the welfare of these noble animals. She set about buying back every old warrior horse that she could find in Cairo, and by the time Dorothy completed her mission, “more than 5,000 old war horses and mules had been reclaimed, and their suffering was peacefully ended.”

Brooke founder Dorothy Brooke with some rescued war horses in Cairo in the 1930s

The tragedy of World War I and Dorothy’s dedication, passion and vision eventually gave birth to what are now the Brooke International and Brooke USA organizations with the mission to help equine owners implement sustainable, culturally relevant solutions to their animal welfare challenges, such as those faced by 26-year-old Kallu and his wife with their 4-year-old horse Baadshah in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Below)

To learn more about how Brooke USA is “honoring yesterday’s American War Horses by helping today’s work equines” and how you can help, please go to Brooke USA “Horse Heroes.” Also, please watch the video below.

To learn more about the World War One Centennial Commission and its projects and programs, such as the establishment of a National World War I Memorial, to commemorate the historic event, please click here.

All photos (except where otherwise noted) and video, courtesy Brooke USA and the World War One Centennial Commission.

Sources: Brooke USA and The World War One Centennial Commission

Crossposted from the Huffington Post

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