Page 16 - Chiron Autumn 2018
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Redwing, Diana and Queenie
– three military horses in the First World War Col (Retd) Simon Miller L/RAMC
Redwing, Diana and Queenie were three horses that carried my grandfather, Captain Frank Steadman, during his two and a half years of overseas service during the First World War. They are mentioned many times in the letters he wrote to his wife from the three theatres of war in which he served (the Western Front in France, Macedonia and Palestine) between June 1916 and the end of the war.
Steadman was a medical officer in a Territorial Army Field Ambulance, the 2/5th (London) Field Ambulance. Officers in the unit were fortunate in being provided with horses (Figures 1 and 2) and my grandfather benefitted greatly from the three that were allocated to him during the course of the war. As well as transporting him from place to place they gave him a degree of freedom of movement not enjoyed by the soldiers. His letters record how he used his horses to carry out reconnaissance and to monitor casualty management during various battles. They also enabled him to accept offers of hospitality from other units, to visit many places of interest, and even to enter a jumping competition.
Steadman’s unit departed for France in June 1916 and he went to war on his first horse, Redwing. Having completed a period of training on Salisbury Plain the unit set out from Warminster to Southampton to cross over to France. The journey is described in his letter dated 22nd June 1916.
We all got off all right. Left Warminster at 8 am. We marched out of camp at 5-30 a.m. The men are delighted to be off. They were chattering and singing constantly. I weighed myself with all my equipment on - I turned 14 stone 10 pounds! Poor Redwing carries even more, because the saddle weighs 65 pounds – nineteen and a half stone in all!
After arriving in France his unit was soon on its way to the Western Front as recorded in his letter dated 25th June 1916.
We marched out of our detraining station at 8 p.m. on Sunday evening for a little village seven miles away, Hericourt. It was a glorious evening; the men sang cheerily; their fresh young voices sounded fine; away in the distance, both on our left and right, we could hear church bells pealing. The country was looking its best; everywhere it was beautifully cultivated. Potatoes, barley, oats and wheat. A few French women were pottering about their gardens in the little villages we passed through. Little children were playing and singing in the
Figure 1 - The 2/5th (London) Field Ambulance on parade
fields. In front of us was a glorious red sunset, and a more peaceful scene one cannot imagine.
Presently, however, the
singing died away, and the
men marched in silence for a
time, until suddenly I saw the men
in front of me prick up their ears, look at each other gravely, enquiringly, and then laugh. Naylor, riding just ahead of me, turned and said gravely, “Hear that, old man?” I listened. Far away to the east was the sound of distant thunder, but on listening it was continuous. The
I listened. Far away to the east was the sound of distant thunder, but on listening it was continuous.The Guns!
Guns! All through the march after that, above the tramp, tramp, tramp of the men, and the clatter of horses’ hoofs, we could hear that rumble of the distant guns.
Steadman arrived at the Western Front just before the start of the Battle of the Somme and was based just north of Arras where he was in charge of the medical ward of the Divisional Rest Station and had a period of duty in an Advanced Dressing Station. During that time he was not only able to ride Redwing on long unit marches but also when taking up
Figure 2 - Officers of the 2/5th (London) Field Ambulance on horseback
offers of hospitality such as the occasion, described in his letter dated 7th August 1916, when he rode over to a nearby regiment to dine with the officers.
A friend of mine, a Captain Craddock of the 2/20th Battalion, came over to tea here the other day. Before leaving, he invited Macaulay and me to go (on Monday evening) to their mess, to dinner, at 7.30. Well, last night we went; it was one of the weirdest experiences I have ever had. When I go in future to a dinner in London, I shall always think of last night’s dinner. Macaulay and I left here on horseback at 6.30 p.m.
We reached the village of Mont St. Eloy; this village stands high up on a hill, and is about two and a half miles nearer the front line than we are here. As we are also on a hill here, we had, of course, to go down one hill and then up another, to reach our destination. This village is constantly being shelled, and we had to be very careful how we approached it, and moreover we had had orders that all horses and wagons were to be off

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