Museum to tell tales of forgotten war horses

Tue Oct 18, 2011 1:43pm EDT
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By Alice Baghdjian

LONDON (Reuters) - Joey the horse, Jimson the mule and other forgotten four-legged war heroes are to be remembered in the first exhibition to focus on war horses in British military history, the National Army Museum in London said on Tuesday.

The exhibition, "War Horse: Fact and Fiction", based on the popular children's book "War Horse" by Michael Morpurgo, explores the real-life stories of the millions of horses and mules who bore officers into battle in the Charge of the Light Brigade or trudged through fields of mud in World War One to transport ammunition.

"Horses played a big role in World War One, and that was one of the things that came across to us when we were preparing for the exhibition," curator, Pip Dodd, told Reuters.

"We were amazed at how much we had in our collection as little material survives about the horses that did the pulling and the carrying -- normally there tends only to be material on officers' horses," Dodd said.

"We wanted to look at the forgotten heroes, as three quarters of the horses used by the army were carrying and pulling, not ridden by officers in the cavalry, and their story is one that should be told," he said.

Hand-written notebooks by poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon on horse care and the riding crop of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, who ordered the fateful British offensive at the Somme, are among the many artifacts on display, as well as three medals awarded to Jimson the mule -- the only mule to receive medals from his regiment.

Jimson worked in India in the 1890s before being moved to serve in the Boer War, Dodd said.

"We're not sure why Jimson was awarded the medals, but it was probably for something like carrying ammunition - something really vital that saved men's lives," Dodd said.   Continued...

<p>A view of the "War Horse: Fact and Fiction" exhibition at the National Army Museum. REUTERS/James McCauley/Courtesy National Army Museum</p>