Remembrance Day Service for Horses
Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed by Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I. It is a day to remember those who have served in the armed forces and fallen in the line of duty. We observe Remembrance Day on the 11th November because the World War I hostilities formally ceased at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Many horses fell in battle and now equines have their own service of remembrance.
The Royal Navy Equine Service of Remembrance
This year the Royal Navy held the first memorial service for horses lost or injured in conflict. The service took place at the Royal Marines Riding Stables at Bickleigh Barracks in Devon.
A shocking eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys were lost during World War I and many more have fallen since. During the First World War horses carried ammunition to the front. Many horses perished due to the shellfire, others because of the terrible weather and the appalling conditions that they endured. Equines have played an important role in many conflicts and this year the Royal Navy decided that it was time to honour their contribution.
Five horses wore poppies and represent military horses for the ceremony. These included Rocky, a horse with the rank of sergeant major. A horse called Anoushka attended to represent equines used in the Battle of the Somme. Bob represented the cobs whilst a horse named Zabor represented Russian horses and Tango represented officers’ horses.
The Animals in War Memorial
The Animals in War Memorial in London’s Hyde Park honours the war contribution of both horses and mules. English sculptor David Backhouse designed the memorial and Princess Anne unveiled it in November 2004. It bears the inscriptions:
Horses have received medals to honour extraordinary deeds in conflict. The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals awards the Dickin Medal which is the animals’ equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Three horses which served during World War II were recipients of this medal. The latest recipient was Staff Sergeant Reckless, a Mongolian mare who worked with the United States Marine core during the Korean War making 51 trips to supply front line units.
Reckless was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation with bronze star, the National Defense Service Medal, a Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Korea Medal, a Navy Unit Commendation, and a Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
It is only right that the magnificent service of military horses is recognised. Hopefully the Royal Navy’s service of remembrance will become an annual event.