Horse shoes are still found, 100 years later, by farmers and walkers in the area of fighting at Verdun in France. To still be finding so many shoes from the war horses, here hung on a farmers fence so many years after the event, is testament to the absolute carnage of this particular event.
The battle of Verdun was the longest and largest battle of World War I. It was so bloody it was known as the ‘Meat Grinder’ in the trenches. On just one day 7, 000 horses and mules were killed by shelling. During the entire war, eight million equines died, 75% of them from the extreme conditions they worked in.
During the first World War, the use of horses changed considerably. The vulnerability of horses to artillery fire and the development of tanks, meant that cavalry units, once deemed essential offensive elements, were no longer used.
Instead, the military mainly used horses for logistical support; they were better than mechanized vehicles at traveling through deep mud and over rough terrain. Horses were used for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers, as well as pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The presence of horses often increased morale among the soldiers at the front, but the animals contributed to disease and poor sanitation in camps, caused by their manure and carcasses. The value of horses, and the increasing difficulty of replacing them, was such that by 1917 some troops were told that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier.
Let the horse shoes of the past continue to remind us of the great sacrifice and hardships that the horses suffered alongside the soldiers. We remember.