I was lucky enough to see the Lincoln Center production of War Horse in April (you can read my review here). It’s a story that brought into the public consciousness the appalling conditions suffered by the horses and mules who fought alongside their human owners during World War I.
The upcoming Spielberg movie has kept the story in the news and I recently read a “real life” War Horse story as compelling as the book by Michael Morpurgo.
General Jack Seely and his horse Warrior went to war together on the Western Front in 1914 . . . although they both returned from the war safely, the general and his horse survived some incredibly close calls.
His stable was hit by six shells . . . but Warrior was unhurt.
In battle a horse next to him was cut in half by a shell . . . but Warrior was untouched.
At the Battle of the Somme, Warrior was stuck in the mud when the Germans flew low over the battlefield and swept the area with their machine guns . . . but Warrior was not touched.
At Passchendaele a huge shell fell near him and he was completely buried under earth except for one forefoot. He was dug out, none the worse but for a slightly lame foreleg.
When Seely rode another horse in battle, more than once the horse was shot out from under him or killed by a shell.
To the troops, Warrior became “the horse the German’s couldn’t kill.”
General Seely kept Warrior until he was put down at the age of 33, remembering his ‘faithful friend, who never failed and never feared’.
In 1934 General Seely wrote a book, “My Horse Warrior” about his beloved mount. That book has just been reissued with an introduction by Seely’s grandson, the writer and broadcaster Brough Scott. It features the paintings and drawings by the famous equine and war artist, Sir Alfred Munnings, painted of Warrior on the Western Front in 1918 and at home on the Isle of Wight after the war. You can order the book from the Website.