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Unknown war horse

War horse who didn’t return

This bridle belonged to a horse either owned or harnessed by J.T. Gillbard, a saddler and merchant in Launceston. It turned up in 2009 on waste ground in Newhaven, Sussex, the main port of embarkation to France during the war. The horse was most likely requisitioned and sent by train, its bridle replaced by army issue.

Credit: Lawrence House Museum, Launceston

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This bridle belonged to a horse either owned or harnessed by John Thomas Gillbard, a saddler and merchant in Launceston.  Operating out of a well-established shop in High Street, the Gillbards were ironmongers as well as saddlers.  Several Cornish-made bridles, as elsewhere, have the maker’s name engraved on a brass plaque above the horse’s nose.

This bridle turned up in 2009 on waste ground in Newhaven, Sussex, the main port of embarkation to France in the First World War.  The unknown horse that once wore this bridle was most likely requisitioned and sent by train, its bridle replaced by army issue and discarded prior to embarkation.  An army of remounters worked at the depots and included the painter Alfred Munnings and Rowena Cade.  The requisitioning of horses began almost as soon as the war began in August 1914.  It was widely assumed that the First World War would be won by cavalry charges; no account having been taken of the major advances in machine-gun design in the eleven years since the Boer Wars.

Another unforeseen consequence of this over-reliance on horse power was that more horse fodder than ammunition had to be carried by railways – a real logistical nightmare.

Key words: animals

Credit: Lawrence House Museum, Launceston