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Steven Broomfield

Great War Horses, BBC4

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Stoppage Drill

Credit for the cavalry's adaptability goes in large part to an infantryman, 'Orace Smith-Dorrien who got a grip of the arme blanche during his tenure as GOC-in-C Aldershot Command (effectively the BEF in waiting) 1907-11.

 

 

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Ron Clifton

It is probably not too late to mention that, as well as the programme about the Australian Light Horse, the previous programme in the series, "The Equine Army", dealing with the procurement of horses in the UK, should still be available on BBC iPlayer.

 

Ron

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17107BM

Yes, were all agreed then. 

 

A cracking piece of documentary with fine footage.

 

Gday all. 

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Steven Broomfield

Colonel D isn't agreed.

 

And on that matter, I hate to disagree with the good Colonel, but I thoroughly enjoyed it: as always there were some things at which one raised an eyebrow, but overall it was a Good Effort. Little hyperbole and almost none of the (these days routine) Brit-bashing one usually finds.

 

As mentioned, the archive footage was excellent and the personal stories were spot on.

 

I liked it a lot.

 

(Did anyone believe Olden's story of getting lost and accidentally capturing Damascus? Sounded a bit dubious to me ... but then again, who was going to disprove it?)

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Eran Tearosh

Wasn’t able to view this till last night. I have quite mixed feelings: I join all those who praised the way the horses were presented, and the bond created between men and their horses (In my youth, I was a ‘cowboy’ for a few years, so I really can feel, vaguely, some of that bond, though no way that my personal experiences were even remotely the type of experiences those people and horses endured). As the film was dedicated to the horses – I can live with the criticism regarding the other sides, both those written already by others and mine.    

 

Next week I’m starting to escort the ALHA (Australian Light Horse Association) tour, in the footsteps of the Light Horse (Men & Horses) through the battlefields of the Palestine Campaign (Including the reenactment of the Beersheba Charge on October 31st) and last year I was on a two-weeks roadshow in Australia, promoting this year’s Beersheba events – so I guess no one will be able to say that I have something against them, but….

 

The EEF’s Order of Battle October 1917 included, to my knowledge, some 35 mounted regiments: 16 British, 12 Australians, 3 New-Zealanders, 3 Indian and about 4 squadrons under the French flag. I think these figures already put quite a question mark on the general picture one might get from the film. Interesting thing would be to look into the issue of the different other types of horses used in this theatre of war, for example – by the Yeomanry (Should be greater number than the Australian Wailers, as there were more Yeomanry regiments), or the horses used by the Indians.

 

As to the historical side – Gareth and Stuart already referred to that (Beersheba, Balfour, Jerusalem etc.). In addition, I will add that the description of Megiddo 1918 is poor and partially wrong. I’m a bit surprised from the poor level of the BBC’s team on the historical research side, especially when compared to the fantastic level of the film in general.  

 

Eran

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Steven Broomfield

I don't think we can blame the BBC: it was an Aussie production, and therefore (not unsurprisingly) gave a fairly Australian-centric view.

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Eran Tearosh

Isn't it a BBC production?

 

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GLC
On 08/09/2017 at 22:13, Stuart24 said:

..... What the Australians did at Romani was outstanding, no question, and I have immense respect for them for that, but how much screen time would it have taken to mention that the New Zealand Mounted Rifles were there right next to them?  There were several cases of this, where very little effort would have made the programme a lot fairer.....

 

I agree Stuart, many of my relatives took their own horses with them when they sailed the 12,000m to fight.

 

In 1914 there were some 400,000 horses in New Zealand of which about 10% were considered suitable for war service.

They numbered 18,000 in all, horses that had known nothing but the lush, rolling pastures of New Zealand.

They were shipped half a world away for conflicts in lands so foreign to their own.

Some did not survive the arduous sea journey. Many pressed into military service succumbed to disease, others to the wounds of battles.

They survived on limited rations and, like the men who rode them, became battle-weary and tired during the brutal campaigns of the war.

The New Zealand horse was of exceptional quality, much bigger and stronger than horses of the Middle East and Europe. The endurance and stamina of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade was second to none, and regularly horses were going without water for 40 hours.

 

New Zealand horses were used on the Western Front and in the Middle East although very few were used at Gallipoli. Of over a quarter of a million horses lost by the British and Empire forces during the war, only about one in five was destroyed by enemy action, mainly shellfire with a few due to poison gas.

 

In Europe, with fodder relatively plentiful and nutritious, no lack of clean water to drink, it was the years of suffering cold, wet and muddy conditions which caused the animals to quickly lose condition and succumb to lung and digestive troubles.

 

By contrast, in the Middle East, horses often had to eat rubbish food and drink foul water. With the start of the campaign to drive the Turks out of Egypt and Palestine, wells were few and far between and it was difficult to get enough water to quench the raging thirst of more than a few horses. The harsh environment and disease took a steady and relentless toll of the horses. Marches of more that 30 miles across arid, waterless terrain, through deep sand or across rocky, grassless hills, in daytime temperatures of 40ºC (104ºF) or more, were commonplace.

The high temperatures did not faze the horses, but the hard work, poor food and dirty water weakened them gradually. As well as normal equine diseases, the horses were exposed to tropical diseases and infestations, war wounds, exhaustion, poisoning as well as extreme heat and cold.

 

The bond between the trooper and his mount is a strong one, and many New Zealand soldiers desperately wanted to bring their horses home from the Middle East but they were hampered by a severe lack of shipping and by animal diseases the horses had been exposed to.

Kiwi soldiers serving in WW1 also saw the brutal way in which local horses were pressed into labour with locals who had a reputation for cruelty and underfeeding their animals. Many believed a quick and painless death for their loyal mounts was the best option.

And so the men who had shared years of conflict and who with their horses had witnessed carnage and faced hardship together, said their farewells to their mounts.

Tales are told of men walking their horse over the hill with a rifle on their shoulder, to come back sometime later without the horse, their eyes red and swollen, and the rifle empty.

 

In the end, just 4 New Zealand horses ever made it back to the lush green paddocks of home.

Bess was one, the only warhorse to serve in all the theatres of war where the New Zealand forces served. She was the only one to return from the first shipment of horses in 1914, but it is said that three others, Beauty, ****** and Dolly, returned to New Zealand from different groups.

(A letter dated 23 November 1920 from General Headquarters, Defence, Wellington to the Director of Veterinary Services states that "Four horses ex NZEF were landed in New Zealand from SS "Westmeath" on 6th June 1920.")

 

Bess, whose real name was Zelma, was born in 1910 in Martinborough and bred by A. D. McMaster who donated her to the war effort. She became the mount of Guy Powles of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. Being a farmer he would have worked with and been used to riding horses. Many New Zealanders who were able to ride horses became members of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.

One day in October 1934, while Colonel Powles was riding his faithful mare, "she suddenly decided to lie down and die there and then." Bess was buried where she lay and a cairn was erected at the site which is on Forest Road.

(I live about ½ an hour’s drive away from her cairn)

 

 

 

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Phil,

Thanks for that!

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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gronksmil

Hi All, from my understanding one horse came back to Australia and his name was Sandy and

he was General Bridges mount. Mike.

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