Morning Glory: Canada’s World War I “War Horse”

Published on October 30, 2013

It is November, the month in which we pay tribute to our fallen soldiers who gave their lives so that we could remain free. At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, we hold 2 minutes of silence to pay our respects to these men and women.

Behind those brave men and women were hundreds of thousands of equine conscripts serving as part of the cavalry or hauling artillery and supplies for the armed forces.

It has been 99 years since the war to end all wars began. Millions of horses were sent to serve in the armed forces on all sides of the fighting nations. It is estimated that 8 million horses died during the war to end all wars.

8 million.

Initially light horses were used as part of the cavalry, but they were no match for machine guns. The heavier horses were used to haul artillery and supplies. Horses and mules from allied countries all over the world, including Canada and as far away as Australia and New Zealand, were shipped to support our troops both on the Western front and in Northern Africa.

Imagine: our beloved equine friends – who are flight animals, many who spook at a plastic bag blowing in the wind – were surrounded by exploding shells, screaming wounded and lethal gas. Yet, brave souls that they were, they kept working until many just collapsed and died of exhaustion.

Canada's own World War I "War Horse" is Morning Glory, owned by George H Baker, MP for Brome, Quebec. Baker commanded the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles. Together, horse and owner were shipped to the Western front but were soon separated. She caught the eye of a battalion commander and became his personal mount.

Moring Glory -- cropped

Even more unusual, Morning Glory became the personal charge of General Dennis Draper who shipped her home to Canada in 1918 after the war. She left her owner, George Baker, buried in Flanders Field.

Tragically the majority of war horses were left behind. Their fate is a black mark on man's treatment of these beautiful creatures who served them well and without whom the troops could not have coped with hauling equipment through the mud and muck of the European war zones and through the hot desert sands of Africa. These beautiful creatures were either destroyed forthwith because they were no longer needed, or more tragically, sold to anyone who would buy them. Too many were mistreated and suffered greatly after being the soldiers' best friend, companion and protector during those four horrible years.

 

So, on 11 November, please remember to also pay tribute to Canada's 120,000 war horses and the other millions who served in the war to end all wars.

 

 

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