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Dolly the War Horse

Dolly the Warhorse

Kei wareware tātau - Lest we forget

A local trust is fundraising to install a special sculpture in Civic Square to honour the horses that were pulled into service during World War One.

More than 10,000 Kiwi horses served beside our servicemen and women, enduring horrific conditions, firstly in the Sinai desert on limited grain and water then on the Western Front, amongst mud and gore, gas and firepower, and barbed wire and landmines in France and Belgium.

A military horse’s typical load in the desert weighed upwards of 120kg complete with tack. Of that, the horse’s own daily grain ration was at times only 2kg. Sometimes leather muzzles had to be fitted to the horses to prevent them from eating sand. Water supply was another major problem, especially when the enemy resorted to poisoning or contaminating oasis wells while retreating. On occasion no water was available for 72 hours.

Dolly the war horse

The Dolly the War Horse Trust is fundraising to install a bronze life-sized replica of Dolly the war horse to be sculpted by Matt Gauldie, former NZ Defence Force official artist. Matt sculpted Hamilton’s statue of Te Utu, the only other recognition of the warhorses in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Dolly the war horse monument is to acknowledge that, after the 1918 armistice, only four of the 10,000 horses that left Aotearoa New Zealand during World War One returned home.

Major General Sir Andrew Russell’s mount Dolly was one of them. Dolly returned to Hawke’s Bay, to Tuna Nui Station at Sherenden, on the Hastings-Taihape Road, and the Trust wishes to reunite Dolly with her much decorated master, ‘The General’, to graze in perpetuity.

Hawke’s Bay’s own Major General Sir Andrew Russell was knighted for a distinguished command that included his planning of the amazingly successful overnight evacuation from Gallipoli. After that, he was recalled to the Western Front in France where it’s understood he and Dolly reunited.

Dolly spent about three years on the Western Front culminating in the 1918 New Zealand Division’s last major action of the war, the capture of the French town of Le Quesnoy. The New Zealanders scaled the ancient walls with ladders and took the German troops prisoners. The liberation of Le Quesnoy was achieved without loss of civilian life or destruction of the ancient fortifications. It represents one of the high points of the war. The town’s residents have maintained close links with, and a high regard for, New Zealand ever since.

Help reunite Dolly with ‘The General’

The Trust plans to unveil the bronze statue in 2024 on February 24, which is Purple Poppy Day. This day commemorates the horses, dogs and pigeons that had to endure such horrible privations in adverse conditions. The monument will be fully funded by the Trust through fundraising, and the Trust invites your financial support. If you would like to donate towards this project, please email Selwyn.hawthorne@xtra.co.nz or mail to PO Box 1414, Hastings, 4156.

Historical information kindly supplied by the Dolly the War Horse Trust.

2 March 2022

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