Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, animals played an intrinsic part in domestic life; they were necessary for goods and people transportation, as well as for food. According to Kelly’s Directory of Surrey in 1913, livestock levels in the county of horses, cows, sheep and pigs totalled nearly 140,000. The First World War saw the need for millions of animals, nationwide, to become part of military operations on both sides: from transport and logistics, to communication and propaganda.

The scale of mobilising armies to war was huge; millions of shells and other ammunition needed to be transported across all war fronts as quickly as possible. Railways, trucks and ships transported munitions for much of their war journey, but thousands of horses, donkeys, oxen and even camels and dogs were relied upon for their ability to pull heavy loads through deep mud and shell craters. Six to twelve horses were needed to pull field guns into position, and the dead and wounded were carted away in horse-drawn ambulances.   Looking after all these animals required specially trained soldiers, who already knew how to care for such beasts from their jobs before the war, and who were also trained in modern methods of animal husbandry.

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