While we are all very familiar with war memorials which remember, or act as a memorial to, people who took part in and/or died in wars one occasionally finds one to animals, most commonly horses.
In World War I (the last war in which horses were used extensively) millions (I have seen six million quoted) of horses went to war, mainly in Western Europe, and many, many were killed.
It is thought that around 39,000 horses left Australia for WWI – only one returned (see later). This is not to say all the remainder were killed. Many were, but those that survived were left to live out the reminder of their lives in Europe – sadly seen as dispensable.
Banjo Paterson, more famous as the author of Waltzing Matilda, wrote a poem lamenting the fact that surviving horses were not brought back to Australia:
THE LAST PARADE
“Over the seas you brought us,
Over the leagues of foam,
And now we have served you fairly,
Will you not take us home?”
This memorial water trough commemorates “the noble services of Australian horses toward the Empire’s victories in the Great War 1914-18”.
Funded by public subscription, it was unveiled on 30 January 1923 in Victoria Square at the intersection of King William Street and Groote Street. When erected, in addition to being a memorial, it was connected to the city water supply and freely used by horses carting produce for the nearby Adelaide Central Market.
When Victoria Square was redesigned in 1964 it was decided to place the memorial in its current location (in 1967) beside the Light Horse Association memorial obelisk, on the corner of East Terrace and Botanic Road. As there are no longer any working horses in the city the trough is no longer connected to the city water supply.
The War Horse Memorial, to give it its correct name was designed by architect Alfred Wells and sculpted by WH Martin Ltd of Unley, Adelaide. It is made of Harcourt Victorian granite.
The accompanying plaque quotes two verses from the Bible (Job 39 v21-22) which remind us of the courage and value of horses in battle – ‘He’ refers to the horse.
“He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword”.
The only horse to return to Australia after WWI was ‘Sandy’. Sandy belonged to Major-General Sir William Bridges who commanded the Australian Imperial Force at Gallipoli until he was killed there in May 1915. For more details on Bridges and Sandy see my separate review Major General Sir William Bridges – Grave.
Address: Corner of East Terrace and Botanic Road