Today, 100 years ago, The Armistice was signed. The document marked the end of the worst conflict the world had ever seen, with 16 million people losing their lives.
Remembrance is an extremely important part of British culture, but it often means different things to different people. To me, that’s the brilliant thing about Remembrance Sunday and that 2 minutes silence - it’s 2 minutes to reflect on what Remembrance means to you.
There’s a lot that goes through my mind during those 2 minutes, from family members to all the brave people that paid the ultimate sacrifice in the vision that we would remain free. However, one thing that remains prominent in my mind are the millions of animals that also paid that ultimate sacrifice.
At the end of World War 1, over 8 million horses and countless mules and donkeys had perished in the conflict. Initially considered as essential offensive elements of the British military, it became quickly apparent that horses were extremely vulnerable to both machine gun fire and artillery.
While the perceived value of horses in war had changed during World War 1, they still played an imperative part in the war, being used mainly as logistical support due to being more effective than military vehicles through deep mud and on rough terrain.
The bond between soldier and their equine friend has been well documented in hundreds of books, poems, documentaries and in the hit film, play and book “War Horse”. The presence of horses often increased the morale of soldiers and by 1917, were so valuable to the military effort that soldiers were told that the loss of a horse is of greater tactical concern than the loss of a soldier.
Conditions for horses, donkeys, and mules on the front were abhorrent, often killed by artillery, poison gas, freezing weather, exhaustion, thirst and starvation. However, from the freezing mud on the Western Front to the oppressive heat of Burma and Tunisia they toiled courageously with unflinching heroism.
So, at the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month, 100 long years later, just take 30 seconds of that 2 minutes silence to think about all of the horses, mules and donkeys that trudged on without question, as they contributed to your freedom.