Almost half of vets in UK fought in WW1
As we remember soldiers and civilians from all countries who gave their lives in war today, it is fitting to include the vets and their roles in our thoughts.
At the start of World War One, 364 British vets worked in the Army Veterinary Corps: a division created after the Boer War, where the need to treat and avoid suffering of animals was seen as an essential requirement to keep the forces supplied. By the end of the war, there were 41,755 members of the Veterinary Corps.
Their contribution to animal health was critical: they often paid the ultimate price to ensure that the animals under their care saw relief from pain and trauma. Typical French Veterinary hospitals could manage up to 2,000 animals and most frequent diseases seen were battle trauma, exhaustion, mange and later in the war, gas attack damage. Out of 2.5 million animals admitted, over 2 million were returned to duty: an admirable cure rate!
There were more theatres of war than Flanders and the Veterinary Corps saw themselves learning to treat camels in Egypt as well as their usual equine and canine patients. At the end of the First World War, the Corps were given a Royal Charter by King George V and the Quartermaster-General made this quote of the brave vets in combat: “The Corps by its initiative and scientific methods has placed military veterinary organisation on a higher plane. The high standard which it has maintained at home and throughout all theatres has resulted in a reduction of animal wastage, an increased mobility of mounted units and a mitigation of animal suffering un-approached in any previous military operation.”