Horses at War: Looking back to the 100th anniversary of the First World War at the Weald and Downland Living Museum

The courage of horses on First World War battlefields and the home front was commemorated ten years ago for the 100th anniversary.

More than 3,500 people visited the Weald and Downland Living Museum in Singleton to watch displays for the weekend event, Horses at War, in June 2014.

The event marked 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War and attracted £9,000 of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to make the event possible.

The museum was thrilled with the event and the response from visitors, although a storm on the Saturday morning did affect attendance.

People hastily started re-planning, thinking the whole day would be a wash-out, when, in fact, the storm was short-lived.

Luckily, the Sunday was a beautiful day and even the overflow car parks were filled very quickly.

The Military Ancestry Road Show had the busiest show to date, with many members of the local community turning out in force with medals, photos, war records and other items for the panel of experts to identify.

There were displays from the 16th Lancers display troops, who recreated the First World War British cavalry, horse-drawn agricultural and commercial vehicles.

Around the site was a recreated field kitchen and demonstrations of charcoal-burning, hurdle-making for trench warfare and forestry.

Visitors said the event gave them a real insight into field hospital and recruitment. One described the show as ‘incredible’ and praised the Heritage Lottery Fund for putting money towards something they and so many others enjoyed so much.

The event struck a chord with Richard Pailthorpe, who was museum director at the time. He took letters his great-uncle wrote in the trenches to find out about his war service and where he was buried.

Horses at War was one of the highlights of the 2014 season, with historian Andy Robertshaw co-ordinating a week of workshops for schools focusing on life at the home front, re-enactments, displays, readings and the largest display of First World War horse-drawn vehicles since the 1940s.

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