Sunday 10 August 2014

The Purchase of Horses for the Army

The Bedfordshire Yeomanry [X344/163]

Monday 10th August 1914: No little commotion has been caused in agricultural and commercial circles by the so-called commandeering of horses and vehicles by the military authorities. Some half dozen parties, consisting of gentlemen who have been brought up to know the value of horse-flesh, and usually assisted by a veterinary surgeon, have been commissioned to take this task in hand throughout Bedfordshire, and as they are well-known residents in the county, with good local knowledge and animated by consideration for their neighbours' requirements in business, there is no reason to suppose that other than fair treatment, to the best of their judgement, has been meted out. In some cases, of course, tradesmen have lamented having to part with their best horses, but usually very fair prices have been given, and in some cases it is said that the involuntary vendors have rather shaken hands with themselves. We may safely say that all concerned have recognised the exigencies of the situation and have resigned themselves to it loyally and with a good grace.

It is not commonly known that a census is taken by the police in each police division of all horses, water-carts, motors and other vehicles, and tabulated at the head office. Once a year a military officer goes round the country with the police and notes these horses and vehicles which are likely to be serviceable for military purposes. The horses are purchased at their assessed value, but, we believe, there is a maximum amount, which we have heard variously stated, but we have no wish to render a possible disservice by disclosing it. It is common knowledge that the general run of prices was from £35 to £45 but more for hunters and the best class of shire horse. The purchases have often involved a big sacrifice in the case of hunters, on which there has been a considerable raid, if it may be so described, seeing that some of the purchasing experts are themselves owners of hunters which they have willingly parted with, although some of these horses may have cost them, say, a hundred guineas or more. This class of horses is required for officers' chargers and some of the stables have been almost depleted. There were different parties commissioned  for purchasing different classes of horses  - one buying for cavalry, another for artillery and yeomanry and so on. The purchasers exercise discrimination and discretion, and take only a proportion of horses, in order not to paralyse trade, but curious stories are related of how one was taken and the other left. Some time ago the War Office framed a scheme for encouraging the breeding of light horses, and a Committee was formed in this county. It does not appear to have been practicable to carry out this scheme very extensively, but to all appearances the supply of horses from other sources has been satisfactory.

Source: Bedfordshire Times: 14th August 1914

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