Mounted hide of a horse

Unit Light horse units
Accession Number RELAWM12675
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Animal hide, Animal horn, Glass
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Australia Goes To War: The AIF
Maker Rowland Ward Ltd
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made c 1936-1937
Conflict Period 1930-1939
Period 1920-1929

Mounted hide of a chestnut gelding, 15.1 hands high, with a partial white pastern on the near hind leg. The near shoulder bears a station brand which, although now unclear, appears to be in the form of a pattern within an oval. It is described in the animal's Veterinary Record Sheet as being a cross within a circle over the number 177. Each hoof is branded on the centre front of the wall: near hind '28'; off hind '71'; near fore '51; off fore '7H'. The horse has a hogged mane and forelock. The tail has been neatened by pulling out the short side hairs down each side of the dock, while the free end is banged (cut horizontal to the ground) so that it is carried at the regulation eight inches below the point of the hock.

A 1902 Universal Pattern bridle, with attached fly veil and headrope is permanently fixed to the horse's head.

History / Summary

This horse, an Australian bred remount, or waler, was purchased in Australia by British army agents in late 1924, at the age of four, and shipped to Egypt where he arrived at the beginning of 1925. Assigned the Army number 71028 the horse served mainly in Egypt, with a few short periods in Palestine, and was attached to a number of British units as a troop horse, including the 18th, 20th and 8th Hussars, the 1st Royal Dragoons, the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, and finally the 7th Hussars.

Although 12 years was the standard age for a military riding horse to be retired from the army when those fit for further work were sold on, and those unfit for further work were humanely destroyed, British mounted units in the 1930s were gradually becoming mechanised. Most of these units had abandoned the use of many of their horses by 1936 which may explain why this horse, and others, were retained beyond their normal retirement age, rather than going to the expense of obtaining fresh horses required for only a limited period.

In the mid-1930s, as the new building for the Australian War Memorial began to take shape in Canberra, it was suggested that the mounted hide of a horse would be an appropriate vehicle on which to display the figure of a light horseman to represent the Sinai and Palestine campaigns of the First World War. As there were then no taxidermists in Australia capable of preparing such a large animal it was suggested that a British firm should be engaged to prepare the hide of a typical British troop horse, which could then be shipped to Australia. When consulted, General Sir Harry Chauvel, who had commanded the Desert Mounted Corps in Palestine, was adamant that the horse selected must be an Australian bred remount, that should be brown, bay or chestnut in colour. The only Australian remounts in the British Army at this time were in India and Egypt and a horse in Egypt was selected because it was closer to the London firm of taxidermists.

This horse was chosen from a number offered by the British Army, destroyed in late 1936 and the hide mounted in London by Rowland Ward Ltd. The completed animal arrived in Australia at the beginning of 1938 and was installed in the Australian War Memorial when it opened in 1941. In the display it carried a rider dressed in the uniform of an Australian light horse trooper, and wore saddlery and equipment reflecting that used during the Palestine campaign of 1916-1918. It should be noted that the appearance of the horse, with hogged (i.e. clipped off) mane, and pulled and banged tail is at variance with that of an Australian horse in the campaign. Full manes and forelocks were retained to protect the horse against flies, unless they had to be temporarily hogged to treat skin disease, as were full tails.

This horse bears hoof brands that in combination tell the name of his last British army unit and his place in it, i.e. army horse number 71(0)28, troop horse number 51, in the 7th Hussars (7H). Australian horses, in theory, used a similar system of hoof branding during the First World War, but their application, as described in AIF Order 10C 45 (i) of 1914, proved difficult in Palestine, and was discontinued at the beginning of 1917, against the advice of veterinary and remount officers.

The Pattern 1902 Universal Pattern bridle, and the Pattern 1912 Universal Pattern saddle on the horse were manufactured in Australia by the Commonwealth Government Harness Factory in the 1930s and supplied to the War Memorial especially for this exhibit. The horse was photographed from a number of angles in life and the images supplied to the taxidermist. They can be viewed in the Photographs collection as numbers P00013.016 and P00013.017.