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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Friends at Work (Long Ago): Moving Wounded Horses in France During World War I

I've become intrigued with the evolution of the equine ambulance and this is one of the first motorized ones I've found. This photo from the National Library of Scotland shows a veterinary officer leading what looks like a predictably reluctant mule up the ramp of the transport while two other horses with leg injuries wait their turn.

In the course of the war the British Army Veterinary Corps in France treated over 2,500,000 horses.

Part of the lettering on the side of the lorry can be deciphered. It reads 'Horse Ambulance' and at the bottom, 'St Omer'. St Omer had been used as a General Headquarters at the beginning of the war.

Notice how the animals flanks have been painted with numbers to identify them. Also notice how fit and round these horses look. These much either be new remount horses or this photo was taken early in the war.
This photo was taken toward the end of the war in France and shows some horses being transported to a hospital in a less elegant transport.
I predict a big surge of interest in the way horses were treated during World War I as Steven Spielberg prepares to film the hit London stage play War Horse, which will open on Broadway in New York next year.


pcvet said...

Hi Fran,
You should contact Valerie Angeli at the ASPCA in NYC for permission to use some of her archival photos of the horse drawn and motorized horse ambulances invented by the ASPCA. A replica of one of them was used in "The Horse" exhibit at the Museum of natural History. She has some very interesting historical photos.

Fran Jurga said...

Hi, thanks! Will do! I have one old photo from NYC. Most are from war archives.

But hang on a minute--you said a "replica"? they built a replica? Wow! Where is it now? I can't believe I missed that exhibit!

I first got interested in equine ambulances because of the idea that a lame horse has difficulty backing out of a trailer. Then I learned about the hydraulic suspension on the track ambulance at Belmont. Then it took off from there and I thought, where did it all start...

Thanks so much!