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:
Here is what I will be talking about:
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.
I will be speaking at the second biannual Equine Cultures in Transition conference to be held at Leeds Beckett University on the 19th to 21st June 2018.
Details of the conference can be found here:
Here is what I will be talking about:
“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.
Read the full article at:
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 […]
Just a brief update on The Triumph of Steam. Last week, we cased it back in (put the cover back on) and worked on the spine. We’ve used some extremely soft calf leather, which has come up really well. It was (fortunately) also quite cooperative to work with, given how complex this project has been. Matt and I are very pleased with the results.
Now a decision has to be made about the spine. Do we put the old spine facing back over the new leather, or do we work with the new leather instead? In terms of restoration, the first choice would retain more of the original material. However, the book will look much smarter without it. Decisions, decisions. Something to think on over Christmas and before our next session.
The next stage will be to finish replacing the old end papers and to restore the wear on the cover. We can’t replace the gold work, but we can bring the blue back. A lovely book, that’s going to going to have a new lease of life I think!
During the Great War, the horse was essential to military efficiency. Horses hauled artillery guns, transported vital supplies and ammunition, and carried men into battle. The military horse was, in fact, a weapon. Many thousands of horses were purchased and supplied to the British Expeditionary Force at great expense, because without them an Army could not function. Although the British Army was the most modern of all the belligerent forces during the Great War, the horse was nevertheless favoured because of its reliability and versatility. For example, horses coped much better than motor vehicles where the going was difficult. It was horse-power that ensured the Army’s lines-of-communication were maintained. Indeed, without an adequate supply of horses it is probable that the British Army would not have achieved victory in 1918.
However, the military horse was also a weapon which quickly broke down when it was not properly maintained. The British Army had learned this to its cost during the Boer War, when more horses had been killed by bad management than by enemy action. Good horse management in the field depended upon the soldier. It was essential that he had received adequate training, and it was also essential that he take responsibility for his horse’s well-being. During the Great War, all soldiers given ‘ownership’ of a horse were taught to put their horse’s needs before their own, and to always think first of their horse. They were taught to see their horse in the same way as an infantryman would his rifle; as something he may have cause to rely upon and which it was therefore in his best interests to look after. The soldier-horse relationship developed once the soldier’s care became one of sympathetic consideration. Soldiers and their horses spent most of their lives together when on active service, and it was this close proximity which helped to bond them into a unit. Many soldiers came to see their horses as comrades; they named them, and went to great lengths to protect their horses from harm. From the Army’s perspective, the soldier-horse relationship ensured that an expensive military asset was properly maintained.
At home, portrayals of the soldier-horse relationship extended its vital contribution to the war effort beyond the battlefield. For example, images and stories that told of the soldier’s kindness to his horse bolstered a positive illusion the British had of themselves as a people capable of both strength and compassion. Images of the soldier-horse relationship played an important part in helping the British people to imagine war. They also provided much-needed comfort and reassurance when friends and loved ones were in danger. Importantly, by studying these portrayals dispassionately, we find that they were never entire flights of fancy, and often bore more than a passing resemblance to the soldier’s actual experience. Indeed, it becomes possible to question whether sense and sentimentality ever did entirely part company in the British imagination. Like their flesh and blood inspiration, portrayals of the soldier-horse relationship have not received the attention they merit. By rectifying this oversight, this thesis not only contributes to study of the horse-human relationship, but also to our knowledge of the Great War. Not least, because we achieve a better appreciation of what it was like to live in the War’s shadow.
Access to my thesis is available via The University of Derby’s online repository:
Or go to my page on academia.edu and follow the links:
Note that any reference to the abstract or thesis must be properly attributed and cited.