Much is written of the iconic suffering horses of WW1, but the men who looked after them are usually forgotten. My book There From The Start focuses on the daily hazards and hardships suffered by both the horses and their riders and carers. They fought, rested and died together and the bond and empathy not to mention the emotional support they gave each other was incredible.
My grandfather was in the horse drawn artillery and rode the horses as they pulled the guns into battle. He and his colleagues did their upmost to alleviate the horse’s misery under almost impossible conditions. The feeding, watering and grooming always came before their own deprivations.
When possible most of the driver’s time was focused on caring for the needs of the horses which was particularly important later in the war when replacements were scarce. It was vital to keep them healthy and uninjured. Whenever possible they were fed and watered four times a day, groomed and checked for injury and ailments.
Men wept writing home about their faithful friends.
Drivers often wept as they wrote home about the plight of their faithful friends. When nothing else was available they used their socks to rub them down or to bandage a cracked heel and used their own clothing to wrap round the breast collar, girth galls and harness to keep them from rubbing the sore spots. Such was their devotion.
Ironically after four years on the western front without respite my grandfather received his third wound, which took him out of the war, when a German aircraft dropped a “daisy cutter” bomb onto the horse lines a mile behind the front while he was feeding, watering and grooming them. He survived but many didn’t.