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Howdy y'all, Anita Lequoia here, Founder of Stargazer Mercantile! Welcome to my blog, THE CAMPFIRE CHRONICLE. I hope that you'll stay a while and visit . . . (virtual) coffee pot is always on!

The Day Winston Churchill Saved the War Horses

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Churchill and horseIf you’re a regular visitor to the Campfire Chronicle, you know that I tend to stick with topics that are strictly Western in nature. There are a lot of good tales to tell and I will never run out of Western material, but it’s a big world out there! Sometimes stories that strike a chord with Westerners don’t actually happen in the West, and that’s why I’ve decided to take a departure in today’s edition. We’re going all the way to jolly ol’ England to talk about horses…war horses, in fact, and their unlikely savior, Sir Winston Churchill.

Hold Your Horses!

In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity. ~ Winston Churchill

ChurchillWorld War I left a lot of casualties in its wake, but Winston Churchill didn’t think that tens of thousands of war horses should be added to that number. During the war, the British military had purchased more than 1,100,000 horses from Britain, the U.S. and Canada. The initial investment was over £36 million and that didn’t include the amount spent to care for the horses between the years of 1914-1918.

The investment in horses had been worth it for the Brits. They had done the work that war horses do. They were used to transport weapons and supplies, mount cavalry charges, pull heavy guns and transport dead and wounded soldiers. The war horses suffered high mortality rates, often succumbing to exhaustion, harsh winters and direct hits from shelling. The loss of life was actually greater among horses than humans, during the battles of Somme and Passchendaele.

HorsesDuring the war, the British government had done everything possible to maintain a constant supply of horses. Farming horses were requisitioned from families who loved them. And, between the years of 1914-1917, approximately 1000 horses were shipped from the United States on a daily basis.

If Wishes Were Horses

Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. ~Winston Churchill

Horses in the warThere’s no doubt about it; the horses did their part to secure an Allied victory, but, when the war ended and the soldiers returned to their families, the horses were still stranded on foreign soil.

ChurchillForty-four-year-old Winston Churchill was Secretary of State for War at the end of WWI, but he had also served his time on the frontlines. When Churchill discovered the plight of the war horses, he refused to accept the status quo. The British military had vowed to return the horses to Britain, but it didn’t appear that they had vowed to do it in a timely manner. Horses who had served so valiantly continued to be at risk of starvation and disease. Many of them had even been sold to French and Belgian butchers, which Churchill found to be unconscionable.

War of Words

Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. ~Winston Churchill

NPG x85330; Sir Travers Edwards Clarke by BassanoPerhaps one of the reasons Winston Churchill is so highly quoted is because he said so much, in so very few words. He knew all about words and he wasn’t afraid to use them, and he knew how to use them in the right way. So, when he discovered the plight of the war horses, he did what he did best . . . he fired off a power-packed message filled with some very carefully chosen words to Lieutenant-General Sir Travers Clarke, who was then Quartermaster-General!

In a document dated February 13, 1919, Churchill wrote, “If it is so serious, what have you been doing about it? The letter of the Commander-In-Chief discloses a complete failure on the part of the Ministry of Shipping to meet its obligations and scores of thousands of horses will be left in France under extremely disadvantageous conditions.”

The man made a good point. I would say that being sold to butchers would be extremely disadvantageous!

Waiting for Their Ships to Come In

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. ~ Winston Churchill

ChurchillThanks to Churchill’s intervention, additional ships were quickly allocated to return the equine soldiers to the land for which they had so valiantly fought. Up to 9,000 horses per week discovered that their ships had come in!

War HorseThe plight of the war horses was one that had largely been forgotten until Steven Spielberg decided to make a little movie, which was based on a play, which was based on a 1982 children’s book, by Michael Morpurgo! The book, play and movie are all simply called War Horse. While that story tells of the attempt of a young man to be reunited with his beloved farm horse, the unfortunate fact is that very few horses were actually returned to their original owners.

War and Peace

Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others. ~ Winston Churchill

ChurchillAs it turned out, World War I was the last time horses were used on such a massive scale in modern warfare. By the time WWII broke out, war horses had largely been replaced by tanks.

Churchill was known as a lover of all creatures great and small, and his most famous quote speaks directly to that:

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

In the case of Sir Winston Churchill and Britain’s war horses, it would seem to me that there was something about the inside of one man that was very good for the outside of thousands of horses!

Here’s a mini-bio of Sir Winston that I think you’ll enjoy, from the Biography Channel!

Happy Trails y’all!
Anita Lequoia


100 thoughts on “The Day Winston Churchill Saved the War Horses

  • Carole @ Rustic Artistry

    And yet another gem of an article about something I didn’t even know I was interested in. Regarding Churchill’s many quotes, I was looking for a good horse-themed quote to use as an opening for the product description on a western style chair and decided to use this one: “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” The man certainly did have a way with words, and with horses too.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Carole, so glad that you enjoyed the story, and thanks so much for the compliment! Sir Winston was a friend to thousands of horses, and they were extremely fortunate to have been so blessed. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • John Windsor

    I do not believe a person can be of great character without genuine regard for those the Almighty has entrusted to us. While animals provide many things including sustenance, we do not do our duty if they are not treated humanely.

    Sir Winston as a great man, in part due to his regard for those who could not help him personally.

    Reply
  • Sandy Dimonds

    There are tears in my eyes from reading this. Can hardly see my keyboard. Thank you so very much for sharing.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Sandy, pass the box of Kleenex, please! I share your feelings. . .thanks so much for taking the time to write, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed the story!

      Reply
  • Patty Hamilton

    Winston Churchill was a great man and kind hearted. I am happy to know that he try to save all of the War Horses that were used in WWI. Tears to the horses that were lost.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Patty. . .it does my heart good to know that Sir Winston cared so much. He is one of the greatest leaders of all time, in my opinion, in addition to being one of the greatest human beings of all time!

      Reply
  • Erin Gilligan

    Wow, this is so great! Really glad to hear that Churchill stood up for the horses and got so many of them back. They are the most amazing creatures that have had so much to do with history and in helping humans. For me, they help my heart. I’m so thankful to have them in my life.

    Reply
  • karen Baisley

    I never knew the story of Mr. Churchill’s compassionate actions taken for all those Horses that selflessly served along side of the soldiers. A heart warming story that I will pass down to my Grandchildren. Along with his quotes as well!
    Thank you so much for sharing this story about a man who is greater yet than he already was!

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Karen, it’s a great story for children. . .there is so much to learn from Sir Winston’s stellar example!I’m delighted that you enjoyed it, and thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  • Tamme Sorrows

    What an Awesome story from an Exceptional Human Being!!! People forget about the wars that our American Horses have fought and died in, for freedom. So many thanks to Sir Winston for remembering these brave soldiers, and rescuing them. Great Story!! I love my horses!!!

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Tamme! We need to start a Winston Churchill Fan Club, we all love him for what he did to save the horses! Thanks for the visit, and come back again soon! :-)

      Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Suasn, he certainly was. . .in so many ways. He has a special place in my heart because of what he did for the horses! Thanks for stopping by the blog!

      Reply
  • Laura Hinkle

    What happened to the horses when they got back to England? Was there room and work enough for that many horses?

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Laura, they were adopted by other families, and lived out their lives on British soil. There was plenty of room for them! Thanks for stopping by the blog, come back again soon!

      Reply
  • Lynn Reid

    So glad Mr. Churchill saved the amazing horses that survived the war. I imagine they all came from great stock to have survived and PERFORMED so well under such extreme circumstances. What well broke horses the lucky people of Britain must have got after the war.

    Reply
  • William Dilks

    This was nicely done. One thing we need to remember is that Millions of people in Europe, during and after WW I were starving as a result of the destruction of the agricultural system. WW I was a war of horrors for animals, soldiers and civilians. The horses that were used for Human consumption was not a bad thing, there were no other options. All wars are filled with Horrors.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Thanks for the kind compliment, William! I do agree with you about the horrors of war, and it is important for us to judge those events from their own cultural perspective, not our current cultural perspective. It is a product of it’s own time and place. I hope that you come back to visit the blog again, I will welcome your comments!

      Reply
  • Kim

    Wow. A well done article. Thank you–I didn’t know about his saving the War Horses. He was one of the greats! Thanks for this wonderfully done piece.

    Reply
  • Patricia

    Thank you for this moving posting about the war horses. Winston Churchill has long been a hero of mine and you have now added another important reason for that to be so.

    Reply
  • Debra

    Oh so heart warming there aren’t enough words to describe how I feel about what Sir Churchill did for all our horses. People don’t realize how far back horses go in our history.They are all heroes.Thanks for sharing this great article. Can’t wait for your next one.

    Reply
  • Georgina

    He was a true champion! We could sure use someone like him to champion the animals now, with our networking and technology and awareness of many animals plights today, (factory farming and the likes) imagine what he could have achieved. He spoke for those who had no voices of their own, and I was so happy to come across this article. Thank you so much!!

    Reply
  • Kristy

    Great article, and fab webpage! I was pointed here from a UK horse web page and am now signed up. We saw “War Horse” on stage in Edinburgh, Scotland, last month and it was amazing. I recommend it if you get the chance to go.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Kristy, thank you so much, and I am delighted that you have subscribed to the blog. I hope to see the play some time soon, thanks for the recommendation!

      Reply
  • LEE

    Absolutely loved this story so awesome, & what a wonderful man Sir Winston Churchill was for what he did for the horses.
    There should be more of this kind & caring actions, i’m very impressed by this story, MAKES ME SMILE :-) (except for the war part of it- loss of horses & humans) ;-(

    Reply
  • linsay

    A lovely article, unfortunately we couldn’t get the youtube footage here in England, stumbled across your site via a post on FB, but will definitely come back for regular visits, very interesting.

    Reply
  • Kathryn Baker

    Thank you for writing this great story. Churchill was definitely an outstanding man and this story proves how compassionate he was too. Horses have helped mankind develop countries, defend countries and enjoy their countries…they deserve respect and excellent care.

    Reply
  • Kirsty

    Thank you for posting this. I knew the was another reason Queen Elizabeth liked Sir Winston so much beyond his capabilities as a leader. Found your post through a horse themed FB group. I’ll be returning. Also, check out your local movie house, they may have a screening of National Theatre Live and their production if War Horse. Heading to see it tomorrow that way. Looking forward to your next post. :-)

    Reply
  • Rena Elswick

    Anita….I thoroughly enjoyed your article and video on Winston Churchill, but it was his “quotes” that hit the home run for me…especially the “You have enemies?” quote. This May I go to court to testify in a two day horse abuse case that started with me blowing the whistle. I always admired Mr. Churchill, but now with this new piece of history I just read he is my hero.
    I’m subscribing today to your blog.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Rena, I’m so happy that you subscribed, thank you so much! And may I say that I am happy to know you? I have the deepest admiration for people who step forward to defend those who cannot. . .BRAVA! :-)

      Reply
  • Richard Walker

    Great article Anita, thank you for sharing it. Being an admirer I have read many books on and by Sir Winston and this is the first time I was aware of his involvement in the saving of these noble creatures. He was truly a great man.

    Reply
  • MARY HAMMOND-TOOKE

    Enjoyed your article re Churchill and the war horses.
    An interesting book involving war horses is “The Fourth Horseman” by Robert Koenig

    Reply
  • Judy Filipkowski

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have read of many good deeds that Sir Winston did while fighting battling WWII but very little of his work in WW1. He already had my utmost loyalty but this was just the icing on the cake. I saw the play War Horse in Ottawa and wept from start to end. Saw it again as a world wide screen showing and managed to only weep 3 or 4 times. Will see it again with new eyes this time.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Judy! War Horse was a wonderful fil, play and book. . .I totally enjoyed it too. Thanks for your compliments, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the story!

      Reply
  • Maiko

    Thank you so much Anita for posting this!

    What a great man Sir Winston Churchill was! I had read about war horses for Australia and for Japan that accompanied and trusted humans through hardships away and was never brought home. Most of us, especially horse people, know there are no words to describe these knowledge.

    Thank you Anita again for bringing the attention to what was saved. God bless Sir Winston, wherever he is now. I hope he is surrounded by horses and all other little things that he loved.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Maiko, it’s nice to hear the stories with the happy endings. . .and Sir Winston did so much for these deserving horses. I’m really gald that you enjoyed his story, and thanks so much for stopping by!

      Reply
  • Olga Musson-Zepke

    I had never heard this story and I am moved that Sir Winston Churchill took the time and effort to right this wrong. A great man and a real horse lover. Thanks for the information and I shall try to keep up with your blogs.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Olga, the little-knows facts of history are often the most interesting, aren’t they? I’m delighted that you enjoyed the story. . .thanks for the kind words!

      Reply
  • Julie Crook

    Thank you, Anita for a beautiful story. I have heard of the movie War Horse but had no idea of the scale involved. Thank God for visionaries & humanitarians! And, thank you, too, Sir Winston! I too, have tears in my eyes. I’ll be checking back Anita! You are truly a gifted story teller.

    Reply
  • Jackie

    My Hero Winston! This was new news to me, although does not surprise me. Every time I read something about him, it’s new and amazing. Thanks you for sharing!

    Reply
  • Elaine Bougie Gilligan

    A friend linked this story on Facebook. Makes me interested in seeing the film and perhaps, the stage play which is opening here soon. I want to congratulate you for your web design–warmest and most appealing looking site I’ve landed on in a while.

    Reply
  • Jamie

    I grew up riding horses. Truly God’s creature. There is just something amazing about them especially when you are bonded with one. Thank you for the story….I never knew. What an amazing man!

    Reply
  • niel

    Thank you, Sir Winston Churchill has a great story and well worth telling. Have a good day and keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • Chuck

    Wow. Where are they now. Politicians who’s actions are greater than their words. Not that his words weren’t powerful, he was a true master at many things. And in his words. I will return. Thankyou.

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Chuck, I definitely agree. . .we could use a man like Churchill! I’ll be looking forward to seeing you here at the blog again soon, thanks for the visit!

      Reply
  • Lisa

    I am an equestrian. I can’t imagine the citizens who gave up their beloved horses knowing they probably wouldn’t be coming home. Thank you for such a touching story. War Horse is one of my favorite movies.

    Reply
  • Irma

    Very touching! Well done! I have loved horses all my life and it makes me happy that someone with POWER was able to do the right thing! I agree with so many of the others that we need someone like Churchill NOW! I did not know about this, either. I could not watch War Horse because movies/plays about horses make me cry! Glad I found your blog through Facebook! I am going to subscribe!

    Reply
  • anthony p o'connell

    Thank you for a wonderful article being Scottish born, i was born in 1941 so i grew up with a british vision of the great man and i shared as we all do his love of horses. One of the great joys of living in America was my ability to buy and keep horses and i did so until i was a 71. Horse are i believe the very thread of our American way of live love of country love of horses. Thank you so very much I am proud to say i am an American but in my heart i will always be British.

    Reply
  • Loretta

    Thank you for sharing this piece of history. I have seen the movie War Horse and own it on DVD. I cry watching it ,but love it. Reading your blog is always enjoyable. Yes too bad we don’t have politicians out there for the Wild ones.

    Reply
  • Amethyst Lynn Ginalick

    Winston is from an era of Honorable Men…Teddy Roosevelt was another one…both equestrians

    WWII….Motorcycles, Tanks & Trucks replaced many of the horses

    in present-day wartime, it is our canine warriors who need to be recognized and remembered…if pictures of devoted canines laying on their partner’s grave don’t reduce you to tears, you are a cold-hearted individual

    Reply
  • Lois Bienlien

    It breaks my heart to see all the articles on animal abuse and especially horses and so nice to be reminded by all the above comments as to how magnificent they are and the important historical role they played. Most of them work harder and are braver then many of us.

    Reply
  • Laura K-M

    Thank you for the inspiring article.
    I am sure the lovely film “WarHorse” and others have brought some insight into the lives of these equines.

    I also think we forget how utterly instrumental horses were on other fronts and ‘police actions’ during more modern times.

    We are now using horses to help veterans and thers who have suffered PTSD and other abuses. Horses do their job and give to us. It is nice to see a politician with a backbone to stand up and ‘dot the right thing’ to save these magnificent creatures.

    Thank you…
    ~Laura

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Laura, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the kind compliments on the story. Sir Winston would have been so pleased to see how many equine programs exist today, for the benefit of our war veterans. I think you are referring to the “Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots” program? It is one of my favorites, and I know that Sir Winston would have approved! :-)

      Reply
  • Jay Linebotanical

    “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

    Exactly so. My father-in-law once remarked that were the common chigger as large as a fly it would rule the world. Thankfully, God in His wisdom already knew these things, and blessed mankind with ‘obedient’ servants such as the magnificent horse!

    Excellent article with little known information, thank you!

    Reply
  • james wooster

    Thanks for the very nice story. It is great to see this kind of quality website, with high standards.

    Reply
  • Bo Lox

    Thanks for sharing this little known account of the war horses, I’ll be sure to share it with friends and family. Churchill did so many great things and this is near the top of the list. Thanks again :)

    Reply
  • Janice Johnson

    This was excellent. Some qualities of Lord Churchill I did not know as was pleased to learn more about him. Thank you so much.

    Janice Johnson

    Reply
  • Virginia Kelsey-Wood

    Thank you for sharing more about this remarkable man. I am English and incredibly proud of my heritage and just plain great fellows like him. We could do with a few more “Churchill’s” in this world to help look about for our beloved marvelous and majestic friends. Thanks again, I thoroughly enjoyed the article. :)

    Reply
    • Anita Lequoia Post author

      Hi Virginia, thanks so much for the compliment. I share your admiration for Sir Winston, I think that he was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. . .and how lucky for the horses that he came to their rescue!

      Reply

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