Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The real life 'war horse'called THE SIKH



The Sikh - whose history as a real life war-horse has been unveiled for the first time.


The incredible story of a real-life 'War Horse' that rode back and forth between the trenches a hundreds years ago has been uncovered for the first time.

The horse - named The Sikh - dodged shellfire and grenades as it delivered supplies to bloodied and battered troops during the First World War

She rode back and forth between France and Flander's trenches and during Balkan battles with her devoted master Lieutenant A.C. Vicary of the Gloucestershire Regiment.

Her extraordinary journey from Britain to the front line and her survival and trip home - in which she WALKED back from Russia - has now been unearthed by a war museum.


It echoes the plot of War Horse, the Michael Morpurgo novel adapted into an award-winning West End play and Steven Spielberg film.

Curators discovered she was a rare equine survivor of the Great War - and spent the rest of her life in Devon just like the hero of Morpurgo's book.

The Sikh - who became a good luck Omen with British troops - arrived at the front line with Vicary and the regiment's Second Battalion in Ypres.

But when the war ended in 1918, she was all the way in Southern Russia - and had to walk all the way back to England.

Chris Chatterton, curator of the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, unearthed the incredible story last week and is calling for a statue to honour the horse.

He said: "I was reading a book about The Glosters and I came across a mention of The Sikh.

"I did some more digging and it really is a remarkable story. She was viewed by many men in the Battalion as an Omen of good luck.

"A statue to honour The Sikh would be great. We will certainly be doing something at the museum to commemorate her."

The Sikh was one of the million horses sent to the Western Front during the First World War.

She was lucky to survive the conflict - only 67,000 returned home, after 933,000 tragically died.

The brave horse was bred in Australia and sold to India. She arrived in North China with the 36th Sikh Regiment where passed into the ownership of Lt Vicary in 1913.

When the battalion was given orders to return to Europe for war in November 1914, Vicary obtained special permission to take The Sikh with him.

She was the only horse to accompany the Battalion from China, braving a treacherous eight-week boat journey from China to Europe.

The Sikh spent the voyage in a makeshift open box on the deck - exposed to baking heat and typhoons as the ship travelled to the UK, dodging German battle ships in the Mediterranean, according to the ship's log.

While the soldiers were banned from sleeping on deck because of atrocious weather, the poor old horse was left out in the elements and only allowed to stretch her legs when officers went ashore at Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Said and Gibraltar.

The Sikh was a loyal companion to Vicary throughout the entire the First World War, supporting Vicary in the reserve lines and support trenches.

The courageous pair led the 16th Gloucestershire Regiment in their victorious march through Serbia and Bulgaria.

She managed to survive despite the desperate conditions for war horses.

On average the British Army lost 15 per cent of its horses every year of the conflict, though just a quarter of horse deaths were caused by enemy action, according to the War Office's Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War, 1914-1920.

She proceeded with the Regiment to South Russia, before following them home through Turkey, Greece, Italy and France once the war ended in 1918.

Vicary ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel, having one a Military Cross and two Distinguished Service Orders medals for his gallantry.

After her illustrious and adventurous life as a war horse, The Sikh died in peaceful retirement at Vicary's home in Devon.

Western Daily Press,January 21, 2015

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