The occasion of Remembrance Day often brings out some fine documentaries on television. While I am generally not a great watcher of television, sometimes I find a programme in the TV schedules which is worth the cost of the UK license fee in itself.
Tucked away on More 4 this weekend was a very fine documentary entitled “War Horse: The Real Story”. It was a poignant, moving and very well researched documentary about the work, and death, of horses on the Western Front in the Great War.
The documentary is available on Channel 4’s “on demand” service, 4OD, at the present time for free. I don’t know whether this on demand service extends to residents outside the UK. (I anticipate that, owing to the UK television licensing, it may well not so – which is a great shame).
The programme charts the purchase, training, use, care and deaths of horses in war and battle on the Western Front, giving some incredible statistics for the sheer number of horses which died and suffered in the conflict. All of this is conveyed in a very professional, thoughtful and informed manner. There is a clear acknowledgement of how traumatic the war was for horses in conflict. There are many images of the care and concern which men gave to their horses. And there is also a clear recognition in the programme of the invaluable contribution of horses to British and Imperial forces in the Great War. The indispensable service of the British and Imperial cavalry in the “Hundred Days” campaign in the late summer and autumn of 1918 is well covered.
The experts interviewed are, without exception, excellent. Dr David Kenyon, author of “Horsemen in No Man’s Land” is a real expert on the mounted arm in the Great War and has, extremely generously,posted his PhD these on the internet for anyone to access here. I found it invaluable when writing scenarios for Great War cavalry actions a few years ago for one of the TooFatLardies’ Christmas specials. The well-known writer Richard Van Emden speaks very well indeed in the documentary, as does jockey, racing commentator and writer Brough Scott. I thought Mr Scott’s contribution in the documentary was excellent – his book on General Jack Seeley and his horse Warrior, “Galloper Jack” is certainly worth a look and is an enjoyable read.
If you’re in the UK, and you like a finely made documentary (albeit interspersed with some pretty annoying commercial advert breaks), I’d recommend “War Horse: The Real Story”.
For wargamers wanting to use cavalry in their Great War actions on the tabletop, there are some terrific photos and film sequences in the programme, in addition to which the scale and drama of the horses’ story inspires by itself. For those lucky enough to live in or near London, there’s also an exhibition at London’s National Army Museum on “WarHorse: Fact and Fiction” which runs until 31 March 2013 and which was visited by Big Lee here with some terrific photos (embarrassingly, despite working in London, I’ve yet to get there). Watching the programme also reminded me I have a troop of Great War British or Imperial cavalry to finish off at some point; hopefully sooner rather than later!
In all, a very good way to spend an hour rounding off a Remembrance weekend.