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War Horses for Causes: the twenty four First World War cavalry horses that raised the equivalent of c£16m

War Horses for Causes: the twenty four First World War cavalry horses that raised the equivalent of c£16m

Author: John Thompson, director and consultant at Changing Business

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, the film adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel, set during and after World War I, generated £3.94m over its opening weekend in the UK. A tidy sum, but no less impressive is a somewhat forgotten fundraising tale recently told to me by the Animal Care Trust (ACT); the Royal Veterinary College’s (RVC) charity that raises funds to support the College’s wide range of pioneering work aimed at improving animal health including the running of the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals (QMH). Below, I’m delighted to be able to share with you that tale of the World’s Largest Nosebag Appeal and the fundraising extravaganza undertaken by 24 gallant veteran First World War Cavalry horses.

The World’s Largest Nosebag Appeal

Emblematic of the Nosebag Appeal, launched in the mid-1930s, was a Super-sized Nosebag created to help collect a staggering target of 250,000,000 farthings to fund the rebuilding of the RVC’s campus in Camden, which includes the Beaumont Sainsbury Animal Hospital.  The building had been declared dangerous and the Appeal’s fundraising board sent out this call to action:

“The World’s Largest Nosebag was ‘Christened’ by the Lord Mayor of London with a gift of 1,000 farthings in aid of the Royal Veterinary College 250,000,000 farthing fund. This appeal has the warmest approval of H.R.H.The Duke of Gloucester, President of the College. Twenty four veteran war horses are assisting to collect. Please put YOUR contribution-Cheque-Notes or Coins in one of the slots”.

Jorrocks and Ransome

The World's largest nosebag - RVC

The world’s largest nosebag

Though elderly, these magnificent hero horses ventured out across the UK tirelessly collecting for the fund, stopping off at village fairs, fêtes and circuses. I’d imagine they also collected quite a few carrots and apples too from the hordes of appreciative admirers that came out to cheer them on and donate their farthings. Two such participants, Jorrocks and Ransome, are pictured observing the two minutes silence held annually on the 11th November to commemorate the armistice which ended the Great War of 1914-18. It’s said that of the million horses sent into this unimaginable conflict, only 62,000 returned home. Most were killed by artillery or poisoned by gas.

Jorrocks and Ransome observing two minutes silence

Observing two minutes silence

A snippet of this touching fundraising effort was also captured on film and recently made available to view on YouTube by British Pathé (see below).

The clip shows the start of an incredible 500 mile journey across the South of England undertaken by two other war horses, Brenda and Josephine. Brenda was ridden by a Norman D.Lance, a young medical student with his sister, Daphne, taking the reins of Josephine.

Making great use of the giant Nosebag, they also handed out smaller ones along the way to enable other people to collect donations. According to Sir Frederick Hobday’s autobiography, “Fifty Years a Veterinary Surgeon”: ”…they crossed 5 counties in 25 days and collected over 42,096 farthings”.

In total, The Nosebag Appeal raised £135,000 and the government contributed an extra grant of £150,000. That’s a combined figure equivalent to around a phenomenal £16m in today’s money.

Looking gift horses in the mouth

Dog making a donation to nosebag appeal

Even dogs made donations!

 

It’s said you should never look a gift horse in the mouth but, as the world begins its commemorations of the start of WW1, I reckon these major gift horses deserve a huge posthumous pat on the back. They risked their lives for our freedoms and then, in their twilight days, went on to help support an institution that to this day helps develop some of the ground-breaking medicines and procedures that help keep our beloved pets fit and healthy and, where possible, helps them defeat life-threatening conditions.

It’s a wonderful story, set in a time when people had a greater connection with horses in their everyday lives. However, I for one would certainly support a re-run of this fantastic example of “horses for causes” as the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals gears up for its 30th anniversary in 2016. I can just imagine the Brendas, Josephines, Ransomes and Jorrocks of today proudly clip-clip-clopping down the Mall to the tip-tip-tapping of the neck-stretching masses texting their donations.

Wouldn’t that be ‘horsesome’?

 

 

 

The Animal Care Trust

Photographs reproduced with kind permission of the Royal Veterinary College

 

John Thompson is a fundraising consultant with particular expertise in cause-marketing, sponsorship, strategy development, partnership marketing and executive recruitment. A blogger on UK Fundraising since 2006 with a background in corporate fundraising and public relations.

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