Looking back on the shelves that we have here at the Lucy Bensley Center and the many scrapbooks that have been donated full of photos, newspaper articles, notes and such, included in these are those books of Miss Lucy Bensley, and I have two that I love going through.
Lucy donated scrapbooks and going through the ones on World War I, you will find information, pamphlets, lesson plans, flyers saving bonds posters, rationing books on WWI that was put out for the schools, libraries and public. Also in these scrapbooks is information on the Blue Cross. What is the Blue Cross? Well, just read on.
Two years before war broke out in Europe, the Blue Cross fund had provided vital veterinary care to the animals during the Balkan War. At that time, it was called Our Dumb Friends League (ODFL) and was renamed due to the displaying of blue crosses that flew above the animal hospitals and ambulances to distinguish help for the animal casualties from the Red Cross, which provided aid to the wounded soldiers. The first Blue Cross hospital was opened in London and another was opened in France.
Horses were an essential part of cavalry warfare and soon became needed to haul colossal artillery pieces, ammunition wagons, machine guns, ration carts and other vital supplies. These horses were taken from the shafts of the family wagons, from the plow, from the families that they knew, the barns they knew and thrown into battle to help with the war.
The French military authorities had undertaken bringing the wounded and exhausted horses to the hospitals, where they would receive the attention they needed according to their condition. Then they are returned to the fighting lines after treatment.
Extracted from a letter that was received April 29, 1915, from one of the veterinarians who was working at one of the Blue Cross hospitals: “We have six stables in use now, a large building that will hold 60 horses, a second building that will hold 22 horses. … Some of the hoses which come in are nearly dead with exhaustion, however I am glad to say that they get a good welcome when they arrive.
“Upon arrival on the first day, they are given a drink of water and are led into a stable where a small but good feed awaits them. Some seem too tired to eat, and simple lay down and rest for a few hours. The next day, the horse is washed and their wounds cleaned. One horse that arrived had 5 bullet wounds!
“The Blue Cross has rented a large meadow on the banks of the Seine about 1 ½ miles from here. I do wish you could see the horses enjoying themselves there, it is by far the best tonic they can have…”
Dogs were just as vital to the cause on the battlefields, as they were used to run messages, detect mines and act as patrol dogs. Pigeons served as well, risking their lives by carrying vital messages over long distances.
Animals are used in warfare, and animals were injured in warfare. Veterinary parcels included supplies of drugs, bandages, horse salts and dressings, medicines, ointments, clippers, antiseptic, portable forges and items for humanely euthanizing horses who were suffering and sadly to wounded to recover. The bravery and selflessness of these animals in fighting alongside the men of the country captured the heart of the nation.
A Blue Cross Medal was presented to soldiers who had bravely helped animals and to the animals themselves for their bravery.
Animals have no nationality, and we here in Springville raised money to be sent to this group to assist in providing animal hospitals, veterinary surgeons to treat the injured animals on the battlefield. It is estimated that more than six million horses and mules were involved in the First World War and almost half died of disease or were killed in conflict.
From the battlefield came reports that revealed that horses suffered from infectious diseases such as glanders, cracked heels and frostbite, as well as being injured by enemy fire or in the course of their duties.
After the armistice, war horses were rescued and rehomed. They opened quarantine kennels on Shooter’s Hill in London and funded the costs so that soldiers could bring back the dogs that had so loyally served them on the battlefield and give them the retirement that they deserved.
Want to learn more? Come down to the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or the second and fourth Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and read through Lucy’s scrapbooks. You can call us at 592-0094 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.