In April I am excited to be presenting a paper at the Maritime Animals: Telling Stories of Animals at Sea conference, to be held at The National Maritime Museum, London. More details about what promises to be a very interesting conference can be found here:
“A Weapon in the Hands of the Allies”: Transporting British Army Horses and Mules during The Great War.
Between 1914 and 1918 The British Army transported by sea over one million horses and mules from around the Globe to every theatre of The Great War. The horses and mules were purchased in the United Kingdom, North America, Canada, South America, South Africa and China. Yet more accompanied the forces of Australia and New Zealand to Egypt and the Indian divisions of the British Army to France. Every horse and mule represented a considerable financial investment; it being estimated that a total £67.5 million was spent on their purchase, training, and delivery between 1914 and 1918. Each of these thousands of horses and mules was also vital to the war effort. It was essential that this precious cargo be protected from avoidable harm.
It is credit to the personnel involved that this expensive living ‘weapon’ was successfully shipped, over great distances, in such numbers, and with such a high degree of success. In addition, astutely devised military regulations ensured that losses were minimised. First-hand accounts enable us to examine how, and how successfully, these Army regulations were implemented. At the War’s end, and when the authorities involved were allowed time to look back on their achievements, it became clear that this command of the world’s horse and mule supply had been a decisive factor in the War’s outcome. The horse and mule were, indeed, ‘a weapon in the hands of the allies’.
Artillery horses aboard the transport ship ‘Mashobra’ in 1915.
Exciting news! I am now working with Routledge on my book Soldiers and their Horses: Sense, Sentimentality and the Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War. It is going to be published in Routledge’s ‘Studies in Cultural History’ series.
Here is a taster of what Soldiers and their Horses is all about!
“The soldier-horse relationship was a working partnership, nurtured by The British Army because it made the soldier and his horse into an effective fighting unit. Working and living alongside one another in difficult and dangerous conditions, soldiers came to rely on their horses and their horses in them. Soldiers and their Horses explores a complex relationship between horse and human, made all the more fraught because of the extreme conditions in which it existed.
Soldiers and their Horses reconciles the hard pragmatism of war with the emotional and the imaginative. It is both a social history of Britain in the early twentieth century and a history of the British Army. By carefully overlapping the civilian and the military, and juxtaposing institutional policy and individual experience, this book provides a valuable contribution to current thinking about the complexity of human-animal relationships.”
Jane Flynn PhD, ‘Sense and Sentimentality: The Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War’, The University of Derby (2016) MA, Masters in Humanities by Research, The University of Derby (2011) PGCE, English with Drama, The University of York (2000) RSA Cert., Teaching English as a Foreign Language, The British Council, Hong Kong (1996) BA, English Literature […]
In November, Hofstra University will be hosting the ‘Artistic Expressions and The Great War: A Hundred Years On’ conference at Hempstead, New York. I am excited to be presenting a paper on portrayals of the soldier and his horse in the British illustrated press.
More information about the conference can be found here:
Portrayals of the Soldier and his Horse in The War Illustrated, 1914 to 1918.
Publications like The War Illustrated brought news of The Great War into the home. The war illustrators provided visually entertaining images of major battles, of acts of heroism and of moments of drama and pathos. Increasingly, however, photographs were also used and, while it was not yet possible to take cameras into the thick of the action, photographers did capture something of what life on active service was like for the soldier.
Photographs and images of the soldier and his horse also allowed the British public to imagine war. For example, images of the soldier’s care for his horse provided reassurance and comfort, because they implied that he had not been de-humanised by war and that his capacity for compassion and kindness survived. The horse was a safe medium through which to safely portray the aftermath of battle and to deal with difficult subjects such as death and wounding. Conversely, humorous photographs and illustrations of soldiers and their horses also provided opportunities for humour and some much-needed light relief.
This paper considers how portrayals of the soldier and his horse altered as the War progressed and as public feeling shifted; from dramatic scenes of bravery, to the more contemplative mid-war images of 1916 and 1917. The War Illustrated allows us a privileged glimpse into the emotional lives of the British people as they lived through The Great War.
“A Kind of Companionship” A Critical Study of the Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War.
The British Army’s organisation brought the soldier and horse together solely for the purposes of war. However, a perpetual drive for economy and military efficiency also created an environment where the horse and the soldier were treated far more humanely than they had ever been in the Army’s past. The soldier was expected to always put his horse first, just as an officer was expected to put the needs of his men before his own. A soldier whose own needs were met in terms of rations, equipment, clothing, shelter and medical attention was far more inclined to take good care of his horse. Similarly, a horse that was well managed remained serviceable for longer. Soldiers were encouraged to take an active interest in the welfare of their horses and were given sole responsibility for their well-being. When on active service, soldiers lived and worked alongside their horses; sharing war’s dangers and privations. Many soldiers came to think of their horses as “comrades”.
Today, this relationship is often misunderstood. It is sentimentalised and trivialised. Yet the soldier-horse relationship offers us the opportunity to think about the bonds we forge with animals, when we do so, and why. It also encourages us to consider the problematic nature of human-horse interactions past and present. The soldier-horse relationship is a study of human-animal interactions as relevant today as it was one hundred years ago.
The Pitiable Martyrdom of Man’s Faithful Friend: Portrayals of the Soldier and his Horse in The War Illustrated, 1914 to 1918.
The War Illustrated emerged in 1914 as an illustrated newspaper dedicated solely to coverage of events during the First World War. Unlike the established broadsheets, The War Illustrated was affordable and targeted at the ‘busy’ reader. Packed with illustrations and photographs, and with dramatic stories of bravery and excitement, readers were able to follow events as they unfolded week-by-week. This gave more people in Britain access to written news about the War’s progress, but also to illustrated and photographic images of what war looked like – and portrayals of soldiers and horses were prominent in this coverage…
‘The Farrier in the Fray’, The War Illustrated, 25thSeptember 1914. Reproduced with the permission of Time Inc. UK.
Review by Jane Flynn Hyland A., The Warhorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Beginning of the Second Millennium, Black Tent Publications, Stockton on Tees, 2010. Ann Hyland’s book The WarHorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Second Millennium is the third and last in a series that […]