Channel 4 to look at the real story of the War Horses

War Horse: The True Story will show the extraordinary and deeply moving story of the million British horses who served in WWI.

“I love a reactive piece – and this story has just such great social history behind it. Testimony’s film is a tear jerker but told with the real facts and incredible stills and archive. Look out for the horses having their heads bandaged behind the lines!” says Channel 4 Specialist Factual Commissioning Editor Julia Harrington.

The true story is, Channel 4 say, even more epic than the new Spielberg feature film. The documentary will tell the real life stories of the horses as seen through archive footage and rare testimony from World War One veterans who worked with horses.

There will also be sequences with experts such as former RSPCA Chief Vet Mark Evans, historian Richard van Emden and British Army expert Dr David Kenyon, combined with the latest historical research.

“The story begins with the mass call up of horses from every farm and country estate in the land. Brough Scott (racing commentator) tells the tale of his aristocratic grandfather General Jack Seely and his beloved horse Warrior, who would become the most famous horse of the war, renowned for his amazing courage and a mascot to the troops.” Channel 4 say, continuing, “The British Army hoped its illustrious cavalry regiments would win a swift victory, but it would be years before they enjoyed their moment of glory. Instead, in a new era of mechanised trench warfare, it was the heavy horses transporting guns, ammunition and food to the front line troops who were most important. Tragically a quarter of a million of these horses died from shrapnel wounds and disease. But the deep bond that developed between man and horse helped both survive the hell of the Somme and Passchendaele. Behind the lines an army of vets worked miracles to treat injured horses and keep them going.”

The documentary will also look to the finest hour of the cavalry when in spring 1918 troops led by the warhorse Warrior checked the German advance before going on to help win the war. The programme also looks to what happened ot the horses after the battles ended. And there is little in the way of a happy Rolf Harris Animal Hospital ending here.

85,000 of the oldest were sold for horse meat to feed Prisoners of War and the local population who were half starving. Half a million horses were sold to French farmers to help rebuild the countryside. Only 60,000 made it back to Britain.

“Six black horses that survived the war together would pull the body of the Unknown Warrior to its last resting place in Westminster Abbey. But the most famous war horse of all to return in glory was Warrior. His story, like the million other British horses who served, should never be forgotten.” Channel 4 add.

The documentary is to be made by Testimony Films with a transmission date yet to be announced.