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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


I have had an interest in Australian Military History for 40 plus years. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have heard that ALL the Light Horsemen shot their horses. Hundreds of times I have heard that some Light Horsemen shot their horses. This forum appears to agree that at least SOME were destroyed, legally and some more illegally.

Is it possible that what is under discussion here is a matter of you say po-tato I say pot-ato?
6/3/2003, 5:57 pm Link to this post Send Email to Ted Harris  
 
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


Not really Ted, there is two questions that need clarification.
1 How many were destroyed.
2 How many men shot their own horses.
As you are aware, I have been working on this for some time and have a letter published in the current [sign in to see URL] Outback magazine following a very inaccurate article in their last edition. There is also, I believe, a concerted effort within the Light Horse movement to create a false impression that most horses were shot.
I have been involved in the public education field for many years and i could not even attempt to enumerate the number of times I have been told that all the horses but 1 were shot and that "my grandfather shot his own horse".

I find it distressing that this sort of misinformation is being promulgated. I dont care who is doing it or for what reason it is being done. I would just like to see the facts published and history reported correctly. Hence my search for the small details that support the facts.
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


I applaud your attempt to provide accurate information. I think it vital that history be written as accurately. Here's the rub. What you are getting distressed about is not history. It is urban myth. Something in the line of Churchill is solely responsible for Gallipoli, Malcolm Fraser said "Life was not meant to be easy", Curtain stood alone against Churchill to get the AIF home to fight the Japanese, all are urban myths built around a small kernel of truth and harder to kill than the undead.

People will believe what they want to believe. It is a Hollywood world. Fight the good fight for truth but don't burn a hole in your ulcer when people prefer a good story to the truth.
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


Well said Ted. As we all know, there are a lot of myths out there being propagated by people who should know better. I agree with you totally when you say that that history should be presented as accurately as possible. Unfortunately not all authors of such misinformation are amenable to criticism.

Bryn
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


Including and especially me. But then misinformation, like beauty, is in the eye etc
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


Ted,

As the forum 'moderator', may I suggest a 'moderate' path.

Geoff S
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


I am not aware of stepping off a moderate path but if you care to enlighten me (privately if you so choose) I will gladly consider your concern/s
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


Reading this poem by Trooper Bluegum made me think that maybe reading these things written by the soldiers may have added to the belief and stories about the men shooting their own horses. Just a thought anyway.

The Horses Stay Behind

In days to come we'll wander west and cross the range again,
We'll canter through the Mitchell grass and breast the bearing wind
But we'll have other horses. Our chargers stay behind.

Around the fire at night we'll yarn about old Sinai:
We'll fight our battles o'er again, and as the days go by
There'll be old mates to greet us. The bush girls will be kind.
Still our thought will often wander to the horses left behind.

I don't think I could stand the thought of my old fancy hack
Just crawling around old Cairo with a Gyppo on his back.
Perhaps some English tourist out in Palestine may find
My broken-hearted waler with a wooden plough behind.

I think I 'd better shoot him and tell a little lie:
"He floundered in a wombat hole and then lay down to die."
I'll get court martialled: but I'm damned if I'm inclined
To go back to Australia and leave my horse behind.

Trooper Bluegum - Major Oliver Hague
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


This from the Marquess of Anglesey's volume 5 relating to the cavalry in Egypt, Palestine and Syria:

'When hostilities came to an end, because it would have been uneconomic, especially in view of the shortage of shipping, it was decreed that some 22,000 army horses in the Middle East should be sold off for use or as meat. At least 4,000 fell into the hands of the fellaheen and the traders in Cairo's streets. They suffered from the usual cruelty and hardship imposed by the ignorance and the heartlessness of their new masters. In the early 1930s Mrs Dorothy Brooke, wife of Major-General Geoffrey Brooke, who had been given command of the cavalry division in Egypt, was so outraged at seeing overworked horses bearing British army brands covered with sores and with their ribs showing through, that she started the Brooke Hospital for Horses in Cairo and set about buying as many as she could afford. Still today the resources of this fund are used to treat, without charge, the descendants of those animals slaving away towards inevitably early deaths in the city'.

This appendix is headed by Trooper 'Bluegum''s poem 'The Horses Stay Behind', which has been quoted by Kate.

Robert
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Re: Disposal of Horses at the end of WWI


This story, while not argueing with its veracity, is in very clear contrast to the disposal records of the Australian Horses. The horses that were on-sold were at least 8 years old at the end of the war. In the 1930's they would have been at least 20 years old and well beyond their usage. Most of them would have been disposed of long before that time as too old for use and as aged horses would probably have been not suitable for meat.
Those destroyed in 1919 were not sold for meat. Their hides were removed and the carcasses buried.
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