Theirs Not To Reason Why

Horsing the British Army 1875-1925

Graham Winton

Date Published :
January 2019
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
Wolverhampton Military Studies
Illustration :
40 b/w illustrations, 8 maps, 8 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781909384484
Pages : 520
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781912390427
Pages : 520
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available
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Nominated for the Royal Historical Society Whitfield Book Prize 2013
Nominated for the NYMAS Arthur Goodzeit Book Award 2013
Nominated for the SAHR Templer Medal 2013

This book provides the first comprehensive study of the British Army’s horse services between 1875-1925, including the use of horses in the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer and the 1914-18 wars. There is a particular focus on the military procurement of horses in relation to the domestic horse breeding industry, foreign supply in times of war, the debate about mechanization versus the horse and an integrated military transport system.

During the 1899-1902 war the recently created Army Veterinary and Remount Departments and Horse Registration Scheme were severely tested and found wanting. Following the appalling suffering and loss of horses during this War, the period 1902 to 1914 was critical for the development of the horse services. The crucial elements in effectively horsing the Army were recognized - supply, care, and organization.

The Army depended on the creation of a rapid and effective horse mobilization scheme and the ability to sustain expansion in the field. The civilian horse market was central to the supply of military horses in peace and war, and by obtaining reliable information on the number and type of horses available to them, the Army could guarantee a regular supply. There was also a need to learn lessons from the 1899-1902 war for the planning and expansion of auxiliary services, for example blacksmiths, saddlers, remount depots and veterinary hospitals.

On the outbreak of war in 1914 the Army had an organized reserve and mobilization scheme; a completely integrated transport system using horses, mechanized vehicles and rail networks. As the war progressed there were serious questions about the continuing supply of horses from both home and world markets, shortages of transport for moving them from the country of purchase and the growing submarine menace. Developments by 1919 in mechanical vehicles were acknowledged by many as signaling the end of the military reliance upon the horse, even though it remained the main source of motive power, and cavalry the main arm of exploitation.

Many lessons from the 1899-1902 War had been learnt, shown in the improved performance of the horse services during 1914-18. The health of animals was maintained at a higher standard than in any former war and remounts were supplied to all theaters of war and to armies of allied nations. At the end of hostilities nearly eight million animals had to be quickly disposed of, as humanely as possible, to bring the Army back to its peacetime requirements

About The Author

Graham's lifelong interest in and study of military, social and landscape history has given him an understanding of military horses and their supply. This was the focus of his Ph.D thesis, 'Horsing the British Army 1875-1923'. He has had a number of articles published on horses in the First World War, mechanisation and army transport system. This book is a culmination of many years of research and experiences.

He has organised many study tours to the battlefields of the First World War, taking veterans back to France, often for their first time. As a result, he has been privileged to spend time with them and listen to their memories of horses and the landscapes over which they operated.

Having had experience of carriage driving, working with heavy horses and riding over a number of battlefields, Graham can combine a detailed knowledge of historical materials and sources, with a practical understanding of horses in the landscape.

Graham retired in 2008 as Principal of a College of Adult Education to concentrate on research, publishing and tutoring. He is a part-time tutor with the University Of Cambridge Institute Of Continuing Education and has lectured in the USA and extensively in England. He has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.


" ... a fascinating read, where incredible amounts of research and considerable knowledge have been engaged and employed. If you have a passion for combat history and an interest in all things equestrian, this should be your one-stop shop." 

- History of War

" .. an absolute delight to read ... Combining his practical and working knowledge of heavy horses this magnificent and heroic work is essential for anybody who wants all the facts in one tome ... The layout is perfect for studying or simply reading for enjoyment ... "

- Bulletin of the Military Historical Society

"Horsing the British Army is a noteworthy achievement, which well meets the criteria stated for the Wolverhampton series: it is new, innovative, research-based, and accessible to all who are interested. It will, presumably, continue the standard work on its subject for many years to come.”"

- Soldiers of the Queen

“… the first comprehensive study of the British Army’s horse services (Veterinary, Remount and ASC) between 1875-1925, including the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War and First World War.”

- Chiron Calling: The Magazine of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps

“ … certainly one of the best researched books I've read on army horses …”

- Stand To! The Journal of the Western Front Association

“ … a most scholarly book, with a mass of detail based upon an in-depth study of a wide range of sources …

- The Guards Magazine

“ … If you have any interest in military horses, you should buy this – it is unlikely to be bettered.”

- Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

“ … the significance of the subject and the enormous service Winton has done for historians in providing such a comprehensive account deserves full recognition. This is a really valuable contribution to the literature of the British Army before, during and after the First World War.”

- Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research

“This comprehensive and meticulously researched volume is a valuable addition to military history in general and to veterinary history in particular … as an account of ‘horsing the British army’ it is unsurpassed, and should be regarded as the definitive volume on the subject.”

- Veterinary History

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