Monday, November 13, 2006

I recently began writing to a very old relative about family things...we discovered each other on a genealogy site... He had spent a lot of time at my mother's farm when they were chilfdren in the '20's and '30's...

There was an uncle who was always hard to get close to for me as a child...he didn't seem to like kids much...fair enough. But this younger uncle said that he had been gassed in WW1 and had other things happen to him, which he hasvn't told me about yet. Knowing this quiet, gentle dignified man who never married, and loved his horses his experiences with his horses in France must have been dreadful.

Some of you might be interested and horrified at the treatment of the horses and the men as I was. But I am glad I know now at least some of the things which made him who he became. Once he was a lighthearted good looking young fellow... and he has no one else left really to tell his stories so I am really honoured to have been able to find out what I have..., This is a part of the letter I received today,

"I think you said you had obtained Alf's war records (from the Australian Archives in Canberra??). If so and as I recall you may see his rank as "Dvr" short for Driver, but not of the motor vehicle kind.

Alf served in France with the field artillery which consisted of batteries of 18 pounder guns, the 18 pound being the weight of the shell they fired. These were the standard field artillery guns for the Brit army at the time. The guns plus a limber which contained ready use ammunition plus seating for the crew of four were pulled by six horse teams in tandem.

The lead horse on the left was controlled by the "Driver" who sat astride and was responsible for getting the gun and crew into action by galloping to wherever they were required and unhitching the horses so that the gun could be prepared for firing. The horses were taken a distance to the rear and held there by the "Driver" until they had to move to another position or bug out as they say.

The Driver like his mates wore leather leggings but he also had a steel wrap around "legging" on his right leg to protect it from the offside horse gear which rubbed against his leg as they gallopped about.

Given the situation in France the field artillery was under continual counter battery fire from the German side and suffered severe casualties with whole gun crews being blown to pieces from time to time.

Alf told me at one time that the thing that really got to them all was the screaming of the horses when they were wounded. As time went by the army vets cut their vocal chords so the troops would not hear them screaming and later they replaced the horses with mules who seemed to be less sensitive.

Another piece of info which you may or may not find interesting but I pass it on anyway

Incidentally Your g/father Tom, and his brothers Frank and Alf were all superb horsemen and Alf and Tom always had excellent stock horses on the property.

When Pam and I drove into the Rouchel some years ago coming back to Q'land from a visit to Canberra we noted that the properties from Aberdeen out all had stockmen on horseback and as it was around lunchtime we noted a couple of places where saddled horse were hitched to rails outside the homesteads. The country around there is all a bit hilly and not suitable much for motor bikes which are used in other districts to round up sheep or cattle.

Love to all"

1 comment:

mirk said...

The only improvement in war... if you can call it that is we don't use horses anymore!

There is a thing about the men that dealt with horses years ago it was a very secretive thing I've forgotten the name right now but it was called the horse mans lore or something like that I'll need to find out the correct name.

Also it was worse in Henry the eighths time the Spanish used to cut the lips off their warhorses to make them look more fierce in battle... yuck