BETSY, THE MARE WHO CAME HOME
In these times of remembrance when we honour the dead of both world wars and the animals who perished with them, here is the story of Betsy, the mare who survived the four years of the first world war and came home to a well deserved retirement.
At the start of the 1914-1918 war my father joined The Honourable Artillery Company, a mounted regiment who were the only ones allowed to march through the City of London with fixed bayonets. My father was not a tall man and was allocated a small mare whose name was Betsy. They suited each other beautifully. My father was a quartermaster sergeant in B battery and his job was to ride ahead and requisition food and lodging for the men who followed. Betsy and Dad started the 4 years of war performing this very important job.
Betsy was extremely biddable and Dad was not a demanding man. One day they were on their travels and approaching a bridge over a river. Betsy stopped in the middle of the bridge and refused to budge. Dad dismounted and checked all four of Betsy's hooves looking for stones or any other problems but could find nothing. He remounted and urged her forward but she still refused, wouldn't move. A few moments later at the spot where they would have been had the mare continued, a land mine blew up. Betsy had saved their lives. The same thing happened much later, this time on the road to a village, and Betsy by refusing to move saved their lives again.
They went through the war together, man and horse, doing the job they were trained to do. At the time of the armistice they were both alive and well.
When the war ended the soldiers were given the option of buying their mounts. Dad bought Betsy without hesitation, and had her shipped to Ireland where she enjoyed a peaceful and happy retirement, stabled with a friend of Dad's who was a steeple chase jockey. Until her death Dad went over to Ireland to see her, every year, both delighted to see each other again.