Tomorrow is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the first major military action by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. It is also a time to commemorate all our other servicemen and women, both past and present, who have served our country. Gallipoli may have failed miserably in its military objectives but the actions of the ANZACs during that campaign went a long way in shaping the Australian spirit we hold so dear today.
*Photo Credit: GLink
I have always had a keen interest in our military history and was an Army Cadet for 3 years in high school. My son Benji recently came home with a book called 1916, one of a five part series on WW1 for young readers and I don't think I've ever read a book so fast! The story focused on the efforts of the Australian Army Veterinary Corps and the challenges they faced in keeping up with quality equine welfare under such trying conditions. It got me thinking about what happened to all those horses when the conflict ended in 1918.
Horses have always played a central part in our country's history - from farming and building, to convicts and bushrangers, from the legendary Man from Snowy River story to their partnership with us in sport. Their strength, loyalty, reliability and character reflects that of the Australian spirit. This coming October marks the centenary of The Australian Light Horse Brigade’s Battle of Beersheba, one of Australia’s great military victories. More than 130,000 Australian horses were sent overseas to support our troops in WW1 and overall, more than 8 million lost their lives.
At the end of the war, the Government imposed strict quarantine laws to stop the spread of disease, meaning our remaining 13,000 horses were unable to return home to Australia. With direction from the Veterinary Corps, the survivors were either distributed to other British empire forces, put down for veterinary reasons or sold off to locals.
In 1930, twelve years after the war, a newly wed Dorothy Brooke moved to Cairo, Egypt with her British cavalry officer husband. Herself an accomplished horsewoman, Dorothy was appalled to find hundreds of emaciated and worn out ex-warhorses struggling with their lives of hard labour in a poor community.
Dorothy wrote a letter home to The Morning Post newspaper, exposing the plight of these once proud and honoured animals. The British public supported her efforts and donated enough money for her to purchase 5,000 ex-warhorses and help end their lives peacefully. You can read the letter HERE.
Determined to continue to make a difference to the lives of working horses and other equines, Dorothy then founded a free veterinary clinic in Cairo - the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital – and here began the work of the charity Brooke.
From its humble beginnings caring for ex-warhorses in and around Egypt's capital, Brooke is now the leading global welfare charity for working horses, donkey and mules. Operating in 11 different countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, Brooke now reaches over 2 million working equines and takes great strides to ensure the welfare of our majestic friends. Staff include vets, animal welfare experts and advocacy and development specialists working with local communities and governments to provide a better future for the animals and the people who work with them.
Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Brooke but I was touched to know that if our warhorses couldn't finish their days back on an Australian farm, at least some of them ended their lives in peace thanks to Dorothy's care.
"A dog may be man's best friend, but the horse wrote history."
Find out more www.thebrooke.org
Lest We Forget.
*Racing Girl is in no way affiliated with Brooke, I just fell in love with their story and wanted to share it.
*Dorothy Brooke at her veterinary clinic in Cairo