Amidst the human carnage that was World War I, and which we remember this weekend, animals also played a vital part in the war effort.
The Brooke charity tells us much more about war horses, and the photos we have show that many were requisitioned from the Bude area. The photos here show horses requisitioned and checked at Lansdown Road and Lansdown Mews.
Horses were used less for cavalry purposes (though cavalry still existed) as they were vulnerable to modern machine gun fire, so their prime use was for transporting both troops and ammunition. 115, 000 horses were purchased compulsorily under the Horse Mobilisation Scheme. Horses were crucial and you can see how they were transported, here. The military horses largely came from the nation’s working horse population and the domestic horse breeding industry.
“Vets treated 2.5 million horses over the course of WW1, and 2 million recovered and were returned to the battlefield”, says the charity. Horses also suffered mentally, just as the men did, from conditions like shell-shock. 484,000 horses were lost during World War I (one horse for every 2 men, the figures for both appalling).
Due to advances in technology, there were far fewer horses used in World War II.
The Brooke charity says many horses and other pets were culled/killed at the start of World War II:
At the beginning of World War II, a government pamphlet led to a massive cull of British pets, on the basis that there would soon be food rationing and pet food was a luxury the country could ill afford. Despite some calls in the press to reject this idea, the public largely went along with it and as many as 750,000 pets were killed in just one week.