Lest we forget: campaign honours the eight million horses killed in First World War

  • One hundred years after the First World War, charity Brooke has launched a campaign called Every Horse Remembered to commemorate the eight million equines killed in the conflict.

    A recent survey conducted by nfpSynergy on behalf of the charity found that the majority of the UK public had no concept of how many horses died as a result of the war.

    Just 12% of respondents were aware that between 1914 and 1918, eight million horses lost their lives on all sides.

    In Britain, one million equines were conscripted — including donkeys and mules — and only 62,000 returned after the armistice.

    Almost half the UK public (48%) were surprised to hear that many of those who did survive were sold or abandoned.

    It was the plight of these former war horses that inspired the creation of Brooke, when its founder Dorothy Brooke went in search of these valiant equines.

    She found many in a skeletal condition, working as beasts of burden on the streets of Cairo.

    In response, she wrote a letter to the Morning Post (later merged with the Daily Telegraph) appealing for help, and with the assistance of the British public, she bought back 5,000 of the animals.

    In 1934, she established the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital, later known as Brooke, which still helps working horses, donkeys and mules around the world.

    The charity’s chief executive Petra Ingram said:“Brooke has launched this campaign to highlight the struggle of working horses, donkeys and mules of the past and present.

    “We’ve found that even though many people know horses were used in the First World War, there’s little understanding of what happened to them afterwards, and even fewer people realise working animals are making a valuable contribution today.”


    She added that 75% of the horses and mules died in the war owing to the intense environments in which they had to work, rather than from shell fire.

    Many succumbed to the deep, freezing mud on the Western Front, exhaustion, mud-borne and respiratory diseases and gas attacks.

    “The sad reality is that animals are still working in punishing conditions, and with the help of the British public, Every Horse Remembered will continue Dorothy Brooke’s legacy and improve the welfare of even more horses, donkey and mules around the world,” she added.

    The campaign has received the backing of celebrities , including Jennifer Saunders, Clare Balding, Olympic gold medallists Charlotte Dujardin and Victoria Pendleton, Jan Leeming and animal rights campaigner Wendy Turner-Webster.

    Newsreader and journalist Alistair Stewart said: “I’m supporting Brooke’s Every Horse Remembered campaign because it celebrates the magical relationship between humanity and God’s most glorious creation.

    “For work, for friendship, for sport, for fun – nothing betters the wonderful horse.”

    To find out more and support the campaign, visit Brooke’s website. 

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