Following the War
Leading up to the war, many believed it would only last a few months. The preparation of the veterinary corps reflected this mentality. Supplies were short lived and trench warfare forced living conditions one could not dream of. Horses experienced the same dreadful conditions as soldiers. Therefore, maintaining the integrity of the horse, a significant contributor to the war effort (through transportation and combat) was crucial to the overall war effort. Before the outbreak of World War One, horses and other work animals were a crucial aspect of combat because traditionally, cavalries significantly contributed to the war effort. However, this was not the case for the World War One battlefield. Horses faced miserable conditions alongside soldiers. However, they were often overlooked. Sometimes soldiers even overlooked the horse under their supervision. Guidelines for the CAVC Officer outline specific occasions where veterinarians were encouraged to intervene and demand that the soldier feeds or allows the horse water.[i] Best practice and promoting every day care was crucial to the wartime veterinarian.
Tamblyn acknowledges the success of his comrades on the Front when he states that following the war, horses under Canadian care were in good shape and free of disease.[ii] As a result, the Belgian government bought every Canadian horse that remained in Europe in a direct deal with the Canadian government. The en bloc method allowed the Belgian government to purchase Canadian horses for £40 per head. “Canada established a ten year credit on its behalf bearing interest at the rate of 5% per annum” stated Barker and Barker.[iii] This was a unique negotiation. However, it allowed Canada to forego a transportation costs to return the animals to Canada. Tamblyn explains that this should act as “a feather in the caps of the Canadian troops who were responsible for their care.”[iv] By the end of the First World War, the CAVC was responsible for returning 80 percent of the animals under their care to active duty.[v] This outstanding feat deserves to be recorded in history.
[i] Sir L.J. Blenkinsop & J.W. Rainey, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Veterinary Services.
[ii] Sir L.J. Blenkinsop & J.W. Rainey, History of the Great War Based on Official Documents: Veterinary Services, 70.
[iii] CAV Barker & Ian Barker. ed. A History of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps in the Great World War 1914-1919 by Cecil French, 140.
[iv]Tamblyn, The Horse in War, and Famous Canadian Horses, 70.
[v] Lisa Cox, “Finding Animals in History: Veterinary Artifacts and the use of Material History”, 113.