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Remembered Today:

The Army recycling its dead War Horses for their by-products


Lancashire Fusilier
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A part of the Army Veterinary Corps going under the wonderful name of the ' Carcass Economiser Detachment ', was responsible for processing dead Army horses for their by-products.
In the attached photograph, taken at the No. 10 Veterinary Hospital at Neufchatel-Hardelot on 22nd August, 1918, we see men from the Carcass Economiser Detachment working at the tanks used for obtaining fat from dead horses and boiling down horse bones. 22nd August 1918.
LF
Photograph c/o the Imperial War Museum.

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Ooooh ... I bet that smelt lovely.

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From 1916, there was a systematic collection of fats, from carcasses and other recycling efforts. It was good business. The fats were sold to soap manufacturers who extracted glycerine, selling that back to the Ministry of Munitions who used it for propellant in artillery shells.

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I suppose it was better to do that than leave a dead horse on the battlefield to add to the aromas. Probably got a fair return on their investment anyway.

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What a great picture where on earth do you find that. My family used to have a knacker's yard when I was young so seems a perfectly logical enterprise to me

Justin H

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The boiled bones of a whole horse carcass, with hooves lying a few feet away, certainly make a very stark impression and are inevitably reminiscent of the leather-strap construction of the puppet in 'War Horse'.

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Fancy joining the Army Veterinary Corps only to end up boiling horses!

Better than joining the AVC and finding yourself transferred to 6th Cheshires. A group of about 50 arrived in late 1917, mainly from veterinary hospitals.

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The question I have is ... what ended up happening to the meat by-products of this procedure.? One thing to scoop the fat off - but what about the leftover meat.?

Anybody for bully-beef ... err whinny-beef in the stew. Call me a cynic but there may be a clue in the Economiser title. Waste not, want not - and who would know.!

Cheers, S>S

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What a great picture where on earth do you find that. My family used to have a knacker's yard when I was young so seems a perfectly logical enterprise to me

Justin H

Justin,

I was researching another matter related to ' War Horses ' and found these photographs, I had no idea of the existence of a Carcass Economiser Detachment.

Here is another photograph of the Carcass Economiser Detachment doing their work, which will surely remind you of your family's knackers yard.

Photo captioned -

" Carcass Economiser Detachment of the Army Veterinary Corps. Soldiers obtaining the byproducts from dead horses. No. 10 Veterinary Hospital at Neufchatel-Hardelot, 22 August 1918 "

Regards,

LF

Photograph c/o the Imperial War Museum.

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The question I have is ... what ended up happening to the meat by-products of this procedure.?

Cheers, S>S

S>S,

A good question, the answer is the horse flesh was processed into meat products, as you say " waste not, want not ", and I am sure the French in particular would have enjoyed the horse meat meal !

Here is the photographic evidence -

Photo caption

" Carcass Economiser Detachment of the Army Veterinary Corps. Soldiers obtaining fat from dead horses and converting flesh into dried meat. No. 10 Veterinary Hospital at Neufchatel-Hardelot, 22 August 1918 "

Regards,

LF

Photograph c/o the Imperial War Museum.

post-63666-0-91472300-1419943744_thumb.j

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but what about the leftover meat.?

Mainly sold to French civilian butchers. The business raised about £640k - which, according to some reckonings, would be about £24 million at current prices.

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  • 1 month later...

I've read an account (In 'General Jack's Diary' I think?) where a horse died and he despatched some men to bury it. Apparently they just shoved it into a ditch and left it. Over the next few weeks the smell of rotting flesh grew stronger and stronger and he eventually send the same men to properly bury the now repulsive maggot ridden rotting remains of the horse. Fit punishment for those lads that thought they could get away with it.
This seems like a good way to deal with the dead horses in processing them and it removes a huge potential for disease and flies in an area which must have been bad enough as it was.

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I wouldn't have thought they would have removed horses who had been killed in action or from the area of the front line. It would be hard to justify for the relatively small amount of recoverable material. You would need to get them fresh for a start, wouldn't want to be lugging dead horses around with so much else as a priority.

Common practice would be to take only living animals and butcher them if for human consumption. Gives you a chance to have a bit of quality control.

Dead animals if available could be rendered down, fat recovered and meat dried but maybe only for usage in animal feeds?

So I guess these were animals which had been sent back old, unsound or unfit and it was judged would not recover, then butchered. With the number of horses the army had in France even not allowing for the tough conditions there would always be a certain number reaching the end of their useful lives.

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I wasn't actually suggesting that they would take a horse that had died at the front as it would be declared unfit for food use anyway, just illustrating the effort needed to dispose of it. Not much you can do with that other than bury it - properly.

I agree that sending horses that had reached their end but were still alive, back to a depot like this would of course have been much better than shooting and burying them.

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Are any bones, remains, shoes or any other evidence of horses uncovered during any investigative archaeological digs on the Western Front?

Have often wondered what happened to the remains of our unfortunate and uncomplaining four legged friends. The above is a highly efficient means of processing carcasses, but many must not have been recovered.

Mike.

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Are any bones, remains, shoes or any other evidence of horses uncovered during any investigative archaeological digs on the Western Front?

Have often wondered what happened to the remains of our unfortunate and uncomplaining four legged friends. The above is a highly efficient means of processing carcasses, but many must not have been recovered.

Mike.

Interesting point. I suppose bone fragments found in a battlefield area could easily be something other than human.

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