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.”
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