War Horse: World War II Cartoon Put the “Draft” in Draft Horse

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Cartoons were a way of life in American for more than 75 years. They began in movie theaters, as short entertainment between or before films.  Later, many of the theater cartoons were broadcast on television and a new entertainment industry sprouted as Warner Bros Cartoons and Walt Disney led a brilliant parade of characters who were as familiar to Americans as any real movie or television stars. Many still are.

Popeye, Daffy Duck, Mickey and Minnie, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweetie Pie and Betty Boop were escapism entertainment. Except during World War II, anyway. Then cartoons became political.

This Warner Brothers short is an example of the patriotism-themed cartoon. If people were going to go to the movies, they needed escape, but the escape had a message. “The Draft” was a word on everyone’s lips, as young men were called up for service every day. So the “Draft Horse” was a play on words, as a plow horse decides he needs to do his bit for America and join the Army.

As you watch the cartoon, think about the people watching it in a dark theater somewhere in rural America in 1942. Would they get the message? Yes, even a plow horse was willing to do his part.

Every war seems to have its “war horse” icons. This one from World War II can be viewed on many levels, or just enjoy this very, very funny horse!

War Horse News thanks Liv Gude of ProEquineGrooms.com for the alert to this cartoon!

Be brave! Entrench yourself in WAR HORSE NEWS on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you! WAR HORSE NEWS is written for moviegoers, horse lovers and history buffs by horse-specialist journalist Fran Jurga and hosted by Equisearch.com.

Your Horse Is in the Army Now! But Where Did War Horses Go Before They Were Sent to France?

War Horse News is going to take a little detour this week. The detour passes through the Library of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in London, which offers some clues to something that’s been on my mind about Joey’s path from the farm to the war.

There are two strong settings in the film War Horse. The farm scenes in rural Devon and the trenches and scorched earth of No Man’s Land at The Front.

War Horse News gold logo (small)But one other setting really stuck with me: the extensive stables where Captain Nicholls took Joey after buying him from Albert’s father. In the book version of War Horse, author Michael Morpurgo does into quite a bit of detail of this period of Joey’s life with Captain Nicholls. A war horse needs a lot of training, and Joey was turned over to Corporal Sam Perkins for what we might think of as dressage training.

Corporal Perkins complained, “He’s good out on maneuvers–a real stayer, one of the very best–but inside the school, sir, he’s a devil, and a strong devil, too. Never been properly schooled, sir, you can tell that….If he’s to be a cavalry horse, sir, he’ll have to learn to accept the disciplines. He has to learn to obey instantly and instinctively. You don’t want a prima donna under you when the bullets start flying.”

Joey’s voice tells us “Now there were endless tedious hours circling the school. Gone was the gentle snaffle bit that I was so used to, and in its place was an uncomfortable, cumbersome barbed bit that pinched the corners of my mouth and infuriated me beyond belief.”

It sounds like Joey would have been a good eventer…but maybe not a dressage horse. In the book, Joey complains about the harsh bit and spurs that Corporal Perkins uses to make him submissive.

This part of Joey’s training was most important, and thousands of cavalry horses went through a similar ordeal. They would have been sent to a place like Romsey Remount Depot or Lathom Park in Lancashire. Later in the war, Romsey specialized in turning thousands upon thousands of North American “mustangs” into instant war horses.

Things looked pretty light-hearted for the grooms at Romsey Remount Depot near Southampton during World War I. Notice the hand-cranked clipping machine they're using. Photo from the Portsmouth.co.uk.

We offer a special excerpt today from the Royal College of Veterinary Science (RCVS) Trust Library in London. My fellow blogger there, librarian Clare Boulton, offers some insight into “equine recruits” at the beginning of World War I:

“In his book, The Horse and the War, Sidney Galtrey states that 165,000 horses were ‘impressed’ by the Army in the first twelve days of the war alone.  Records show that during the course of the war some 468,000 horses were purchased in the UK and a further 618,000 in North America.

“This massive increase in numbers required a rapid expansion of the Remount Service, part of this expansion was the establishment of a new depot at Romsey to receive horses that arrived in Southampton, having been purchased in the USA.

“Construction of Romsey Remount Depot began in November 1914.  It was completed in just over four months, for a cost of £152,000, with the first two horses arriving on 19th March 1915.  The Commandant of the depot, Colonel H M Jessel, recorded its activities in The story of Romsey Remount Depot.

Joey possibly would have experienced a train trip en route to France.

“A fairly typical month was July 1916 when Jessel records the daily ‘ins’ as 2533 animals and the ‘outs’ as 1374.  During the course of the war a total of 118,755 animals came into Romsey and 114,636 were sent out for active service.

“The record of the veterinary work at Romsey for May 1917-October 1918 shows that 5,458 animals were admitted to the Veterinary Hospital but just 35 died or had to be  destroyed.  The most common reasons given for the deaths is enteritis or fractures.

“It would appear from the inscriptions on the paintings by Lionel Edwards that featured in our earlier post at least one of these horses spent some time receiving veterinary treatment at Romsey as the painting  is labeled ‘nasal eruption not glanders’.”

If you live in the UK and are interested in finding out more about the remount service, why not pay a visit to the RCVS Library Trust and look at the items that they have in their collections?

RCVS References
Galtrey, Sidney (1918) The horse and the war London : Country Life and George Newnes
Hume, Robert (2010) The story of the Army Remount Service (unpublished)
Jessel H. M. [1919] The story of Romsey Remount Depot London: Abbey Press

You might also enjoy these article: “The real-life war horses from Hampshire” from portsmouth.co.uk and “War horses trained in West Lancs” by Henry James

Be brave! Entrench yourself in WAR HORSE NEWS on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you! WAR HORSE NEWS is written for moviegoers, horse lovers and history buffs by horse-specialist journalist Fran Jurga and hosted by Equisearch.com.

War Horse Interactive: Time Maps and Super-Zoom Galleries Bring Another Dimension of the Film to Life on Fans’ Computer Screens

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One of the most common questions I get about War Horse is “What battle was that supposed to be” or “What part of France was that?” As far as I know, the story of War Horse took shape in author Michael Morpurgo’s mind as he was writing the book in the early 1980s. He researched history, certainly, but the exact battles and locations aren’t mentioned in the book.

The telescoping zoom feature on the Shoothill gallery takes you in and out of the movie, and in out of real life, thanks to the use of scans of genuine WW1 trench maps, aerial reconnaissance imagery of the battles (one of which even shows a British attack on the German lines), historic imagery of real war horses and Calvary officers diary extracts from the beginning of the war.

It’s also important to mention that many of the battles in World War I went on for months and months. Some people think that War Horse is a very long movie. But if you think about it, Joey is sold to the military at the very beginning of the war. And the end of the film comes with the end of the war. That was a five-year stretch of a horse’s life. And the war was moving around France and Belgium during those five years.

Ah, but this is the age of Google Maps, GPS and FourSquare. We all want to check into the trenches–or what’s left of them–or drive down the road where Joey and Albert raced David in his sporty car with his girlfriend who only had eyes for Joey (or was it Albert?).

Who’ll be the mayor of Sommes on FourSquare? Can you check in to the Forest of Argonne?

The War Horse Interactive applications are courtesy of Shoothill, a group of brilliant software developers in Shropshire, England. They have a lot of experience in creating interactive applications for museum exhibits, and have perfected the Microsoft Bing platform for this War Horse application and super-zoom gallery.

The Argonne Forest, site of one of the longest and bloodiest battles in human history, as it looks today.

The apps can be used seamlessly with Internet Explorer, Safari, and Mozilla Firefox on Windows and MAC OS X, and Firefox on Linux. Shoothill’s unique Time Map application allows users like you and me to gain a fascinating insight into the geographical and architectural changes of a town or city–or a battleground–over decades.

Shoothill tells us by way of explanation to the un-techy (that would include me): “We build Time Maps by integrating historical maps of an area with up-to-date modern mapping using the Bing Maps platform, and have created our own custom-built Time Scope viewing window to enable users to compare changes over different periods of time. This can be done for any location in the world.”

War Horse may be a historical film, but the values it portrays are realistic for all time and all humanity. It may portray a point in time when historical warfare (the cavalry charge) meets technological warfare (tanks and machine guns) but the entire production used the most current applications, as you would expect of a production by Steven Spielberg.

Those applications have now been brought to our computers and laptops and iPads and smart phones, thanks to brilliant minds like Shoothill, and sponsors like Microsoft. Explore, and enjoy the added dimension of War Horse, which is much more than a movie, about much more than a boy and his horse.

Video: A Special New Year’s Evening at the Roots and the Heart of War Horse

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As a special New Year’s treat, enjoy this 48-minute video of War Horse author Michael Morpurgo and War Horse musical maestro John Tams on stage, taped in Toronto earlier this month. They tell stories of the origin and concept of War Horse, they sing the great War Horse hymn “Only Remembered”, and they sink into their comfortable chairs like two old friends at the fireside. All that’s needed is a chorus of Auld Lang Syne, but you can sing that one yourselves.

If you want to understand and appreciate War Horse, you’ll have to look beyond the way Joey twitches his ears, beyond the blue of Tom Hiddleston’s eyes and even beyond the landscape of No Man’s Land. Somewhere, over the horizon, is the fertile mind and tender heart of the man who conceived of War Horse.

War Horse News small gold logo badgeMichael Morpurgo is a writer whose vision and passion has not been lost in the crazy celebrity of his creation. Thanks to sensitive and artistic producers of both the play and the movie interpretations of War Horse, the story has only been intensified, albeit in two very different ways.

Both productions are very quick to give credit to Morpurgo and pay homage to his brilliant and seemingly-simple story.

If you haven’t read the original book version of War Horse, please do. You can read it in a few hours, and the story has enough different characters and situations from the play or film that you’ll be intrigued.

This video begins with Michael Morpurgo reading the foreword to his book, War Horse.

It’s all here: horses, history, art, children’s books, Spielberg, Handspring Puppets, American hymns turned anti-war songs–and it’s all for you.

It will introduce you to the author better than any video I can post here, but this YouTube video is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand or share the “Big Picture” of War Horse. I hope it will play on forever, and that the “Big Picture” will get even bigger.

This video is provided by the Mirvish Theater group in Toronto, which is staging the War Horse play, opening in February 2012.

The War Horse App Is Ready for Your iPad!

Joey and Geordie leave No Man's Land behind

Do you love War Horse? There's an app for that...

DreamWorks has released the interactive War Horse iPad app to enrich your experience of the film.

“What kind of an app?”

“A miraculous kind of an app, be my guess.”

The War Horse app–which is compatible with iPads equipped with iOS 3.2 or later, can be downloaded from iTunes. And it’s free!

The app gives important technical and production details about the film.

Content of the app includes what you’d expect–trailers, a photo gallery, and film information–but it also has a terrific interactive map of England and France, showing the locations where the film was set.  There is also a film times and showing information facet that will make it easy for you to find or recommend a screening anywhere in the world!

Joey's map of the world is interactive in the War Horse iPad app.

This app apparently only works on an Apple iPad but if you don’t have one, you surely know someone who does–and it’s a free download.

Your War Horse iPad App download is just a click away!

All photos in this post are © DreamWorks II Distribution.


Be brave! Entrench yourself in WAR HORSE NEWS on the web: 1) Bookmark WarHorseBlog.com; 2) Grab the RSS feed; 3) Follow @WarHorseNews on Twitter; 4) “Like” the War Horse News page on Facebook; 5) Circle War Horse News on Google +. Leave your questions and comments here on the blog and we’ll try to help you! WAR HORSE NEWS is written for moviegoers, horse lovers and history buffs by horse-specialist journalist Fran Jurga and hosted by Equisearch.com.