THE CONSCRIPT is an original painting created to commemorate the millions of horses that died in WWI as well as those taken from civilian life to war. This original painting 100 x 100 x 4cm on canvas in acrylics, metallics and fine glitters is part of my series of work commemorating people, places and events of WWI A hundred years on. This painting adds the contribution made by horses to the war effort. As a lover and rider of horses from a young age I cannot imagine the trauma of a beloved horse being taken away to be apart of the war machine! Ponies were not generally taken due to the concern for children worried about their pets should they be taken to the war.
Over 8 million horses are believed to have died on all sides in WWI. A huge number of animals taken from civilian life, most ripped from the families that loved them to the horrors of the battlefield. Some had already been military horses and were experienced in the so called glory of the military charge made famous by the charge of the light brigade.
The story of the war horse is now fairly well known thanks to the book, film and stage show War Horse by Michael Morpurgo and I hope that my painting will touch the hearts of the viewer to think about the horrors faced in the years of war by so many horses most of whom would never have experienced anything like the time they spent on the frontline.
Horses and countless mules and donkeys were used mostly for transport of food, munitions, injured men and equipment throughout the war. Millions died from battle wounds from shellfire and guns but most died from the dreadful conditions, lack of food and weather.
The value of horses was such that by 1917 at The Battle of Passchendaele many units were told that the loss of a horse was far worse than the loss of a man because they were more difficult to replace. Men were assigned to care for the horses and there are many images of distressed soldiers with the body of their horse in their arms. The distress of the horses must have been a terrible thing for the soldiers caring for them, their death even worse!!
Veterinary hospitals were set up to treat battle wounds and shell shock which affected the higher bred horses more than those of hardy stock. their efforts saved many but huge numbers of corpses lined the roads where they had died!
When the war ended many of the surviving horses were shot due to age or illness whilst younger ones were sold to slaughter houses or local people much to the distress of those looking after them.Very few returned to their homes. Of 136,000 horses bought from Australia only a single horse retired home.
This painting THE CONSCRIPT is dedicated to all those horses who served and died alongside the soldiers in WWI. Like many of the men, they had no choice!
For more on my series of WWI Commemoration art please have look at my blog www.charronpugsleyhill.com and please get in touch if you have any questions or thoughts!