Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The First World War & The Helpful Heffalumps



As we creep ever closer to many First World War Centenary markers, there have been some fascinating snippets in the news of late. I am interested in all things Great War - but especially the female role and the more unusual stories. One in particular grabbed my attention last week and made me exclaim “..how have I never know this? Why was I not taught this as school??!...” and to then promptly tell everyone in earshot about what I had discovered. And you lovelies are next.

With the calling of all horses to the front - from the coach pullers to the corn transporters – one of the areas hit was the vibrant, hardworking world of the Circus. Horses across the land were soon requisitioned by the army and the performing circuit’s soon drew to a halt. Many male members of the menageries joined up and left their companies. Labourers in the towns and cities could not be found and in 1917 many fairgrounds ceased to trade. However - there were still fully trained and hardworking animals to be tended to.

With their immense pulling power, elephants were handed over to fill the hoofs that the horses had left behind. On a small farm, near to one of our favourite picnic spots , just under 100 years ago, you could well have seen a benevolent pachyderm helping to plough a field. Or perhaps hefting hay with ease over their strong backs with the quick flick of an inquisitive trunk.

Further North, the odd vision of an elephant wearing leather boots would have been common place. Used to pull munitions and scrap metal, the boots were to help protect her feet from any shards of steel.

Around the South, you may very well have spied a Land Girl in all her full skirted uniform trying to guide a big ol' heffalump along in a straight line. If you would like to see this now (ooh! the technology!) then head on over to British Pathe and have a look-see.



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