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Albert

Hidden horse

At the beginning of the war, two famous St Agnes heavy horses were hidden in an adit and cave close to Chapel Porth to prevent them being requisitioned by the army. Albert was the prized lead horse of a team that hauled machinery to and from Cornish mines, while Captain was a farm horse.

Credit: St Agnes Museum; Ian and Wendy Ewart

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In the summer of 1914, with the harvest in St Agnes about to begin, the army scoured the countryside for horses.  Farmers and others were encouraged to take their horses to special markets held in Redruth where government buyers assessed hundreds of them, paying £30 - £40 each for those that were selected.  The chosen horses were then branded on the hoof and led into wagons at the railway station for despatch to France. When faced with the army representatives, farmers were quick to point out that every mare was in foal. Stallions were not favoured by the army as they were generally difficult to manage; geldings were therefore much sought after.  Two prime candidate war horses were Captain, a favourite at Beacon Cottage Farm, and Albert, the lead horse of Jimmy Thomas’ haulage team based at Cannonball Farm. Albert was locally famed for his intelligence; he understood some 20 words of command and was extremely valuable as lead horse.   A plan was made to hide both Captain and Albert in an adit and cave close to Chapel Porth to prevent them being requisitioned by the Army. Mr Thomas lost 26 of his heavy horses to the army on its first visit, so it is not surprising that he hid Albert. 

The two horses were hidden in a shallow adit close to the cliff edge near St Agnes Head, which made a long but constrained stable.  Both horses were fed under cover of darkness and remained in their subterranean stable for several days until the army had left the area.

Albert was eventually bought by the army on a return visit, and shipped to France. The adit is still known as Captain's Cave. 

Key words: animals, home front

Credit: St Agnes Museum; Ian and Wendy Ewart