Page 6 - Chiron Spring 2018
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South Africa
             RAVC (1918+)
             Shoeing Smiths
             Vet. Assistants
        Vet. Officers:
2 (Total 67)
            Vet. Officers in all units:
KiA* - 9
DoW *- 24
DoD* - 34
(Total 67)
 mules were admitted to hospitals and convalescent horse depots in France, of which nearly 395,000, or 71.5% were passed out as cured. At one time 84% were sent back into service. Most figures do not include the minor ailments dealt with at the front, usually 2% of strength. A weekly average of 3,500 animals were evacuated to hospitals in France, each eventually capable of dealing with 2,000 animals.
From August 1914 to 31st March 1919, the total number of admissions and re-admissions to hospitals and convalescent depots of the Home Commands, BEF, Egypt, Salonika and Mesopotamia was over 2.5 million (admissions, not individual animals), of which 78% were cured and returned to service. The maximum number of animals under treatment at any one time in hospitals and convalescent depots, at home and overseas, reached 90,000; falling to under 60,000 before 11th November 1918. On 15th March 1919 approximately 22,500 animals remained under treatment. The annual mortality from disease and injury of all animals with all British-Indian Forces, at Home and with Expeditionary Forces, was less than 14% for the whole war, due to the effectiveness of the AVC.
In August 1914 the Corps comprised 121 officers and 230 men; by August 1917 this had risen to 20,983 of which 423 were officers. However the ARD and AVC suffered a continual loss of manpower during the war through the transfer of fit and trained Category ‘A’ and ‘B’ men; replaced by lower category, untrained personnel. The establishment of the Corps ‘other ranks’ was completely changed three times during the course of the war. For the majority of the war the Corps worked on an establishment of officers 30% below that conceived in pre-war establishments. Civilian surgeons were employed, but their numbers were small compared to demand. Corps personnel also became causalities. Although their numbers are rarely mentioned they were not inconsiderable:7
Other ranks and NCO’s:
The Corps was also responsible for the vital provision of farriers and shoeing-
be met from the civilian trade. A School of Farriery was established at Romsey in 1915. Three more were added including one in France; 1,317 pupils passed through them. Gradually the insufficiently trained ‘cold shoers’ were replaced by competent shoeing-smiths. By August 1918, there were 2,534 qualified smiths (2,353 British and 181 Indian).
The Horse Services played a crucial role in the victory of 1918. The health of animals in all theatres of war was maintained at a higher standard than in any former war. Once the demobilisation of surplus animals began there was no check on their
In August 1914 the Corps comprised 121 officers and 230 men; by August 1917 this had risen to 20,983
health on account of disease. The Corps was responsible for the disposal of military animals no longer fit for service. In August 1918, on the suggestion of the DAVS with the BEF, the Disposal of Animals Branch (AVC) was formed to assist the enormous task of animal demobilisation; dealing with 64,334 animals and realising about £859,000. Thus making the Corps probably one of the few services that helped pay for itself.8
Birkbeck wrote that, “the extraordinary efficiency of the Veterinary Service during the war was due largely to the feeling that they were running their own show”.9 On
Sir Francis Davies, Military Secretary, Buckingham Place, requesting, “He bring to Lord Milner’s notice a proposal which the King [George V] wishes to make, namely that the title “Royal” should be conferred upon the ASC, AVC and Army Ordnance Corps. His Majesty feels that the spendid work which these Departments have performed during the War has earned for them the honour which is enjoyed by other kindred establishments”.10
Smith wrote, “The evolution of our Service began in 1876, reached its maturity in 1914, and the fruits of 38 years’ work were gathered during the Great War. Our sovereign was the first to graciously acknowledge the results of our work by conferring on the Corps the much-coveted title of “Royal”. The QMG to the Forces, in congratulating the Director General and all ranks of the Army Veterinary Service on this proud distinction wrote: “On the occasion of HM the King being graciously pleased to raise the AVC to the status of a ‘Royal’ Corps, the QMG to the Forces wishes to convey to all ranks his congratulations and appreciation of the good work which they have performed during the present War. The Corps by its initiative and scientific methods has placed Military Veterinary Organization on a higher plane. The high standard which it has maintained at Home and throughout all theatres has resulted in a reduction of animal wastage, an increased mobility of Mounted Units and a mitigation of animal suffering, unapproached in any previous Military Operations.”11
1 Veterinary Record, 30 November 1918, p.180. I am grateful to Clare Boulton, Head of Library and Knowledge, Royal College Veterinary Surgeons. The main text for this article is taken from Winton, G., Theirs Not To Reason Why’ Horsing the British Army 1875-1925, Helion, 2013. The book contains detailed references to all the works used in this article.
2 Maj-Gen Sir Frederick Smith, the distinguished military Veterinarian was Director-General of the Army Veterinary Service 1907-1910. Smith, A History of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps 1796-1919, London, 1927, for example pp. 125,144,193,198-9,203,305.
3 Birkbeck Private Papers. I am indebted to the Birkbeck family for loan of this material.
4 Army Order 284, 1912; Army Order 402, 1913; WO Administrative Directory, 1913 ,p.68 and 1914, p.66.
5 Smith, 1927, p.234.
6 United Kingdom, Western Front, Egypt, Salonika, Mesopotamia, East Africa, and Italy.
7 KiA, killed in action*, DoW, died of wounds, DoD, Died of Disease*. I am grateful this information to Brian Hill, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and Andy Smerdon
8 DAVS - BEF, Major-General Sir John Moore.
9 Birkbeck Papers.
10 I am grateful to Julie Crocker, Archivist, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle and the permission of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the use of this material. Ref. Number: RA PS/ PSO/GV/PS/ARMY/24114.
11 Quarter-Master General to the Forces, Major Sir John Cowans. Smith, 1927, p.241
     smiths. The QMG’s Department provided over 60 million shoes for horses and mules. The increased demand could not
the 19th October 1918, Lt-Col Arthur Stamfordham, Private Secretary to the King, wrote from Sandringham to Lt-Gen

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