It is estimated that almost 8 million horses, donkeys and mules were sacrificed during the First World War. They could be considered as "collateral victims", but history proved that their self-sacrifice had a critical influence upon the soldiers' psychology which influenced as well the outcome of crucial battles.
American soldiers who experienced war's cruelty, wanted to thank their horses for their sacrifices for the common goal. They didn't forget that through the absurdity and constant fear, their loyal horses stayed with them until the end.
The emotional pictures were taken in 1915 and illustrate 650 soldiers in New Mexico. The panoramic shot shows that the soldiers used their bodies to form a horse's head.
They carried food supplies, water, ammunition and medical supplies. One million horses left the United Kingdom, but only 60.000 returned! Michael Morpurgo wrote about their bravery in his book "War Horse".
During the first year of war, the lack of horses in the countryside made life difficult for rural families. Sometimes, German saboteurs poisoned English horses while the animals were traveling outside England.
The emotional bonding between a horse and its rider was really important. When a horse died, its rider was almost devastated.
During the deadly battles of Somme and Passchendaele, it is estimated that there were more horses' deaths than men's.
As Simon Butler said: "It was the first and the last world battle in which horses had a crucial role".
Soldiers burying their horses in a mass grave...
In the end of the war, some of the horses who survived were sold for their meat, while some others (not many) were lucky to return to their rural families.
Steven Spielberg, inspired by the book "War Horse", directed the movie "West End", which tells the story of the horses' role during the First World War. "West End" is one of the many anti-war films.
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