At an evening talk arranged by BHS Warwickshire and the Warwickshire Hunt Pony Club on 7 February, Sergeant Anthony Bysouth (Royal Logistics Corps) and equine vet Sally Hodgson (Hook Norton Vets) enthralled their audience at Ettington Community Centre with an account of their participation in the War Horse Ride 2014.
The War Horse Ride 2014 was conceived by a small group of former cavalry officers who set out to create an event that would be a fitting tribute to the men and horses of all the armies of 1914 and in particular to those of the Cavalry Division of the British Expeditionary Force. The organisers felt it important not only to commemorate the past, but also to support those who are suffering today as a result of more recent wars, and hence they chose as their beneficiary charity the Not Forgotten Association – founded in 1920 to care for the wounded of all three services.
In August 2014 around 25 riders, each representing one of the regiments and corps that comprised the Cavalry Division, set out to ride 100 miles across France over five days, taking in sites of some of the most famous cavalry actions of the opening weeks of the war. Riders wore the same uniform and carried the same weapons as their predecessors in 1914, and were accompanied by a 13-pdr field gun drawn by a six-horse gun team, and a contemporary horse-drawn GS wagon.
Anthony – dressed in period uniform – and Sally recounted their ten-day trip and the logistical challenges of transporting the horses to France, and of caring for them during the ride, and compared these with the challenges faced by the army in 1914. They told the story of the events of August 1914; the Retreat from Mons was the last time in British or French military history that cavalry played a major part in war in Europe.
The ride ended on the battlefield at Néry, where the British cavalry fought their German counterparts, and Anthony and Sally recalled the poignant moment when their field gun was fired to commemorate the 100-year anniversary. Three men of L Battery, Royal Horse Artillery were awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions that day in 1914.
During a break and after the talk we had an opportunity to chat with Anthony and Sally and examine various items of equipment they had brought along, including cavalry manuals from the time, a bridle with standard-issue reversible bit, and a set of harness date-stamped 1916.
Monies from ticket sales were boosted by a raffle on the night with lots of good prizes. The event raised £250 for the Not Forgotten Association, and £100 each for the British Horse Society, and the Warwickshire Hunt Pony Club.
Many thanks to Anthony and Sally for a great evening, to organiser Nikki Inglis and her assistants, to the Rookery Team Pony Club Centre for kindly making and serving the refreshments, and to everyone who supported and attended the event.