A preview from “Datelines” in the upcoming Finest Hour 153.
LONDON, 31 December 2011— In a well-researched article in the Mail on Sunday, Chris Hastings latches onto current interest in the new Spielberg film “War Horse” with the story of how Churchill intervened to save tens of thousands of stranded war horses in Europe after World War I. The story is characteristic of WSC and his love of animals:
“British military chiefs were heavily dependent on horsepower to carry men, supplies and artillery, and spent more than £36 million during the war to buy up 1.1 million horses from Britain, Canada and the United States. War Office documents found in the National Archives at Kew show that tens of thousands of the animals were at risk of disease, hunger and even death at the hands of French and Belgian butchers because bungling officials couldn’t get them home when hostilities drew to a close.
For more information on horses and other animals in war, follow this link to the Animals in War Memorial.
“Churchill, then aged 44 and Secretary of State for War, reacted with fury. In a strongly worded missive dated 13 February 1919, Churchill told Lieutenant-General Sir Travers Clarke, then Quartermaster-General: “If it is so serious, what have you been doing about it? The letter of the Commander-In-Chief discloses a complete failure on the part of the Ministry of Shipping to meet its obligations and scores of thousands of horses will be left in France under extremely disadvantageous conditions.”
Churchill’s intervention led to extra vessels being used for repatriation, and the number of horses being returned rose to 9000 a week.