Battle at Badminton Suspended – War Horse Warrior and VE Day Celebrated
As the usual friendly battle between the protagonists at the Badminton Horse Trials have been cancelled, and as this week, tomorrow in fact, Europe celebrates “VE” Day, the day which marked the surrender of Germany to end the Second World War, we look at the exploits of one of, if not the most famous horses at war – Warrior.
Horses have been used for many purposes during wars since the Roman times and before, but there has only ever been one horse who received the “Victoria Cross” Warrior. Warrior was one of only a very few animals, let alone horses, who saw life in both World Wars. After his extraordinary activities during the First War, he saw the Second in retirement back where he was born in the Isle of Wight.
Warrior was born in the Isle of Wight 1908 and was owned and bred by General Jack Seely, grandfather to the successful national hunt jockey, now writer and TV racing pundit for the last 40 or so years, Brough Scott. In the spring of 1908, Warrior was born to the thoroughbred mare Cinderella. In 1914, the famous Warrior (now a gelding) was taken to Europe via Le Havre to help in the fight in the First World War. Warrior was involved at the front line of war on many occasions and escaped unimaginable disasters including at The Somme and Ypres. In February of 1915, Warrior was returned to the UK with the Canadian Cavalry following the dreadful allied defeat at Mons. He was based on Salisbury Plain with his ‘co-rider’ Sir John French. This was a short stint however, as by May the same year Warrior had returned to France with General Jack Seely and Sir John French as part of the Canadian Cavalry secondment to the war effort. He was sent to the trenches near Ypres. The following year, he was at the Battle of the Somme where he was the first horse to gallop through the “G GAP” thus providing a better platform for the allies to fight from. In 1917, the horse found himself at Passchendaelle where he was almost lost leading the cavalry in charge through the dreadful mud, in which he got stuck. In November of the same year, 1917, Warrior was again in the front line in the final push in the “Big Cambrai Attack” By this time; Warrior was already a worldwide legend. His exploits had been reported throughout the globe and he was now a revered celebrity. He had not finished yet. In March of 1918, warrior was to lead one of the final charges of war – the “Final Charge of Amiens”.
Warrior was obviously a very lucky and tough horse, as there were thousands of horses at the front who did not survive the atrocities. Warrior, on at least two occasions during his exploits was completely buried in mud as a result of exploding shells. Extraordinarily, he was rather shocked, but never badly injured. The Canadians always said of Warrior, “he was the horse the Germans could not kill” By Christmas in 1918, Warrior had returned to the Isle of Wight as a hero. In 1919, the horse rightly led the victory parade in Hyde Park in front of his adoring public. He then went back to is birthplace at Mottistone Manor where in his retirement, he was hunted by the family. At Easter, in 1941, the famous old warhorse died at the ripe age of 32, just a few days shy of his 33rd birthday. Over a century after his birth, Warrior was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal at the Imperial War Museum, the equivalent to the VC.
We cannot possibly write an article about Warrior without marking the true heroism of his owner, breeder and rider General Jack Seely. Educated at Harrow School and then at Trinity College Cambridge he went on to be a lawyer at The Bar. He was born in Derbyshire in 1868 and died in 1947 at the age of 72. He was a very close friend of Sir Winston Churchill, someone today we revere as one of the best British Prime Ministers, and whose famous speeches and announcements will be played continuously over the next few days no doubt. Like Sir Winston, Jack Seely became a Member of Parliament. He was a close ally of Winston Churchill when Churchill was Secretary of State for War in the First War. General Jack Seely was at different times, MP for both the conservative and liberal parties. His highest office was as Secretary of State for War under Prime Minister Asquith for two years. (1912 – 1914) He was a soldier through and through. He served in several campaigns including the Boer War in South Africa as well as in Europe during the 1914 – 1918 conflict. He was a Major General in the Hampshire Yeomanry and commanded the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.
The list of honours, citations and mentions in dispatches he received was huge. He was awarded the The Companion Orders of Bath and later, Order of St. Michael and St. George. In Belgium he received The Commander of the Order of the Crown and in France, he was awarded Le Legion D’Honeur. Not only was he was obviously a brave, maybe fool hardy man in battle, but took no prisoners in politics either. He berated conservative Prime Minister Balfour for, in his view, (together with Winston Churchill and Hugh Cecil,) neglecting the needs of the armed services. Where have we heard that before? Anyway, his disgust was such that he resigned his seat and joined the Liberals where he safely won a seat. General Jack had an extraordinary life, and a few words here cannot possibly do it justice. However, with such a man, it may not be such a surprise that Warrior, the horse he owned, bred and rode into battle was as hard and extraordinary as the owner?
As we all celebrate the end of the Second World War this weekend, as best we can, some journalists suggest that the old ‘patriotic spirit’ has been reborn during this corona virus pandemic. Whether they know or are in a position to judge is an interesting question in itself? However, there have been some great and famous horses who have battled their way through history in amazing circumstances of which Warrior has to be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest.
With thanks to image contributors, Express, Telegraph, Mirror and Daily Mail.