A BRAVE horse who survived gas attacks, shelling and near-drowning in mud during the First World War is being honoured with the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
Equine hero Warrior, dubbed “the horse the Germans couldn’t kill”, was presented posthumously with an honorary PDSA Dickin Medal at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Awarded in the centenary year of the First World War, it is the first honorary Dickin Medal presented in the PDSA veterinary charity’s 97-year history and recognises the courage shown by all the animals who served on the front line during the conflict.
The medal was accepted by author and horseracing broadcaster Brough Scott, the grandson of Warrior’s owner and rider, General Jack Seely.
Warrior and the general arrived in France in August 1914 and stayed on the Western Front throughout the war, enduring machine gun attacks and artillery bombardments at the Battle of the Somme.
The bay horse had to be dug out of the mire at Passchendaele and was twice rescued from beneath burning beams after his stables were destroyed.
He survived many charges at the enemy, narrowly cheating death in 1915 when a horse beside him was cut in half by a mortar.
Despite suffering several injuries, Warrior made it through the war to return home to the Isle of Wight in 1918. He lived there with the Seely family until his death at the age of 33. His obituary appeared in the London Evening Standard in 1941 with the headline: “Horse the
Germans Could Not Kill.”
Eight million serving horses and mules died during the four-year conflict.
Mr Scott said he accepted the medal with “great pride and gratitude” on behalf of Warrior and all the “remarkable” animals in the Great War. “Warrior’s story – which I grew up hearing at my mother’s knee – was lost in time to the wider world,” he said. “But now he rides again, 100 years later, thanks to the PDSA.
“My family and I are more than honoured that Warrior has been given this award on behalf of all animals that also served; we are truly humbled.
“I only wish Jack Seely were here today to witness Warrior receiving the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.”
The PDSA Dickin Medal, instituted by the charity’s founder, Maria Dickin, in 1943, is recognised as the highest award an animal can achieve while serving in military conflict.
As the first ever Great War recipient of the medal and the first to receive an honorary award, Warrior has been recognised by celebrity supporters including Steven Spielberg, director of the Oscar-nominated film War Horse. He said: “Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War.
“Recognising him with an honorary Dickin Medal is a fitting and poignant tribute.”
PDSA director-general Jan McLoughlin said: “Warrior’s gallantry and devotion to duty throughout World War One reflects the bravery shown by the millions of horses, dogs, pigeons and other animals engaged in the war.”
General Seely, or “Galloping Jack”, served alongside Winston Churchill in Herbert Asquith’s government and was the only former cabinet minister to remain at the front for the entire war. In 1934 he published a book about his service with Warrior, illustrated by renowned war artist Sir Alfred Munnings.
In it he describes leading a charge on Warrior at Moreuil Wood. “He was determined to go forward and with a great leap started off. All sensation of fear had vanished from him as he galloped on at racing speed.
“There was a hail of bullets from the enemy as we crossed the intervening space and mounted the hill, but Warrior cared for nothing.”
Seely and his steed survived the charge. Five others did not.