Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Straight From The Horse’s Mouth


This post is dedicated to my eldest daughter Liz, for whom today is a very special day…


morpurgo war horse

Another great  Michael Morpurgo book [now transformed into an amazing play on the London stage]is War Horse. This is the tale of a horse [Joey] who ends up being sold to the British Army in 1914 to be used in France. Such was the use of horses on the Western Front, that over 8 million died on all sides fighting in the war. Two and a half million horses were treated in veterinary hospitals with about two million being sufficiently cured that they could return to duty.

At the end of the War, the Army sold off their horses abroad - some went to farmers- others to butchers. It was cheaper and easier than transporting them back to the UK.

Joey’s story has a happy ending, you will be glad to know! And it is good to know about other[real] survivors e.g.the gun team of beautiful black horses.  After the War, they were given the great honour of transporting the coffin of the Unknown Soldier to Westminster Abbey.  The team, affectionately known as 'The Old Blacks', were finally retired in 1926.


In 1930, a British woman, Dorothy Brooke, wife of a Cavalry Officer, went with her husband, to live in Cairo. She was an accomplished horsewoman – and was horrified to see the emaciated horses and donkeys working on the Egyptian streets – carrying heavy loads, pulling carts taking tourists to the pyramids at Giza etc.

Many of the animals were struggling with all sorts of health issues. Dorothy was even more appalled to learn that these horses were ex British Army equines – many around twenty years old, having left Britain during WW1.

dorothy brooke writing

Dorothy wrote an impassioned letter to the Morning Post

…These old horses were, many of them, born and bred in the green fields of England – how many years since they have seen a field, heard a stream of water, or a kind word in English? Many are blind – all are skeletons….An animal out here, who would be considered far too old and decrepit to be worked in England, will have before him several years of ceaseless toil – and there are no Sundays or days of rest in this country…

From this one letter came donations of £20,000. Dorothy was able to rescue 5000 horses, and set up the Brooke Hospital for Animals in Cairo – which is still running. In 2009, they helped 115,000 working horses, donkeys and mules throughout Egypt.

So often these animals suffer simply through the ignorance of their owners. The Brooke helps educate owners, and provides low cost veterinary treatment, enabling animals to go on living and working in much better conditions.

dorothy brooke

The Brooke animal charity celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, and its current patron is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall [that’s C on the left, and donkey on the right!]

camilla at brooke

More details of The Brooke’s ongoing work throughout the world can be found on their excellent website.


vodafone So why am I dedicating today’s post to Liz? Because today she begins working for The Brooke for two months. She applied for – and won – a placement with the “World Of Difference” Charity Internship Scheme sponsored by Vodafone

Liz will be working from their HQ in Farringdon Street, and using her considerable skills in their Communications Department. Many of the countries where the charity is currently working are caught up in civil unrest right now – and animals as well as people are suffering. She is expecting to be kept very busy – and part of her remit is to keep us informed about her work. I'll keep you posted on that!


Many people across the developing world are united by one key fact; they rely on their horse, donkey or mule to work for their income and survival.

The Brooke estimates that the 800,000 animals it helps every year support as many as 3.7 million people. The charity is not just helping the animals – but whole communities.

I am incredibly proud of Liz for doing this work. It means a significant drop in income for her for two months, but she is doing something she knows is very worthwhile. I am so glad she can combine her gifts of communication, her lifelong love of horses, and her strong social conscience in this way.

Well done, daughter – have a wonderful time!


  1. Hello Angela, that was such an interesting post and well done to Liz she must be very excited, you have every right to be proud of her she sounds a lovely girl.

  2. Well done Liz! she will have such an interesting time working for this very worthwhile charity...about which not enough is known.

  3. Now my tears have stopped; please give your daughter a HUGE hug from me.
    My grandfather and his two brothers were in a gun carriage team during WW1. My grandfather came home, his two brothers did not (nor did many of his horses).My grandfather loved his horses and would have been terribly upset at the plight of the ones sold after the war, and the treatment of many horses today.
    a heartfelt 'thank you' to all the charity staff.
    Jane x

  4. Way to go Liz! An excellent post today Angela! thanks for telling us. Blessings!


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