When war broke out in 1914, horses and cavalry units were widely deployed. Horses were primarily used for transport of supplies and artillery rather than battlefield combat. The animals were highly valued on both sides, and the Allies' success in blockading Axis horse imports had an impact on the course of the war.
Yet the use of horses had drawbacks. Sanitation posed a major challenge as disease was rampant. Equine influenza, sand colic, sores from fly bites, ringworm, and anthrax led to the death of many hundreds of thousands of horses throughout the war. There was also the issue of feed: Britain sent more horse fodder to the Front than any other commodity.
As the war progressed, and technology with it, horses faired less and less well against the modernized weaponry of artillery and machine guns. Eventually, they were replaced by tanks for shock tactics, but the horse continued to play a significant part in the war.
A memorial in St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, reads: “Most obediently and often most painfully they died - faithful unto death.”