Warrior, the horse the Germans could not kill, posthumously awarded the 'Victoria Cross for animals'

First World War veteran survived four years on the Western Front

He was the real-life War Horse who survived the slaughter of the Somme and Ypres to beat the deadly odds and return to a green English field to live out his days in clover.

Warrior – dubbed “the horse the Germans could not kill” – was last night posthumously awarded the so-called animals Victoria Cross, the PDSA Dickin Medal, in recognition of the gallant role played by non-human combatants during the First World War during which more than eight million equines were killed.

But the bay gelding, dispatched to the Western Front in August 1914, survived repeated perils during four years of brutal conflict becoming an inspiration of the men that served alongside him.

Among those to pay tribute was Steven Spielberg, director of the Oscar-nominated film War Horse which was based on the 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo and which has become a smash hit stage play.

“Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength, and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War. Recognising him with an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal is a fitting and poignant tribute not only to this remarkable animal, but to all animals that served,” he said.

The medal was accepted by author and broadcaster Brough Scott grandson of Warrior's owner and rider General Jack Seely, a close friend of Sir Winston Churchill, at a special ceremony compered by Kate Adie OBE at the Imperial War Museum London.

During four years of fighting Warrior survived repeated cavalry charges against the enemy into a blizzard of falling shells and machine gun fire.  He was dug out of the mud of Passchendaele and twice trapped under the burning beams of his stables.

Despite suffering several injuries, Warrior returned home to the Isle of Wight in 1918, where he lived with the Seely family until his death in 1941 aged 33.

Mr Scott said he had grown up hearing the story of the horse which unlike the fictional farm horse Joey created by Morpurgo lived a privileged life looked after by grooms and batmen and ridden by the country’s military and legal elite in point-to-point races.

“My family and I are more than honoured that Warrior has been given this award on behalf of all animals that also served; we are truly humbled. I only wish Jack Seely were here today to witness Warrior receiving the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross,” he added.

16m animals were pressed into service during the war predominantly for transport and sending messages but also for companionship.

A total of 65 Dickin Medals have been awarded since they were instituted by the charity’s founder Maria Dickin in 1943. The recipients include 29 dogs, 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses (not including Warrior) and one cat.

The last recipient was Military Working Dog Sasha, who died while on patrol in Afghanistan, who was given the award posthumously in May this year.

PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: "Warrior's gallantry and devotion to duty throughout World War One reflects the bravery shown by the millions of horses, dogs, pigeons and other animals engaged in the war.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?