Most of the armies of the First World War were horse-drawn, but the plight of the animals was often overlooked.
One million horses were sent to France between 1914 and 1918. Only 62,000 returned.
Their demise was not only caused by bullets and shells, but also by poison gas, disease and starvation. Many horses drowned in the mud.
Most of the animal charities tried to mitigate the effects and provide veterinary care alongside army vets.
On April 21 in 1917, the Bournemouth Flag Day Committee organised a local response on behalf of the British Army Sick & Wounded Horses’ Fund.
In the run-up to the event, the local press covered the work of the Army Veterinary Corps. It was claimed that nearly 70 per cent of the sick and wounded animals were saved by the veterinary hospitals at the front.
An article in The Bournemouth Graphic on April 13 encouraged local residents to give generously: “Never have horses been of such value to the nation as at the present time.
“By helping them we are also rendering untold assistance to our gallant fighters at the front, for without horses it would be quite impossible to carry on the war; and as they cannot voice their sorrows or their needs, it is all the more essential for us to exert ourselves to minimise their terrible sufferings.”
To help promote the event, Fred Ginnett displayed The Talking War Horse at the Hippodrome in Boscombe. Whizz-Bang (named after a German shell) was apparently a veteran from the Flanders battlefield that he claimed would present its experiences at the front.
Around 400 men, women and children took part in the street collection on April 21 and raised a total of £666 which was a considerable sum compared to a previous collection, Russian Flag Day, which amounted to just £286.
Several horses were paraded through the streets of the town in various guises during the event, including Whizz-Bang and another equine war veteran called Ginger at Bournemouth Square.
The plight of Britain’s military steeds also inspired local artist Lucy Kemp-Welch to produce some of her finest work.
The painter, who was born in Bournemouth, specialised in painting working horses and is famous for her war posters depicting a cavalry charge.
But although there were occasions when mounted attacks were made, the horses often proved too vulnerable against the modern weaponry, especially along the Western Front.
The horses were mainly used for pulling the guns and other wagons on reconnaissance sorties and for carrying messengers.
According to the Blue Cross Fund which was founded in 1897 ‘for the encouragement of kindness to animals’, more than eight million horses and mules on all sides were killed during the Great War and more than 2.5million were wounded.