This is Blackie, the War Horse who has been nominated to take his place in our 100 Hero Horses hall of fame by Jess Edwards (pictured below), who is 10 and from the Wirral and our youngest Ambassador. She says he deserves to be included as she thinks he was a true friend to his rider and very brave to carry on despite his injuries.
Blackie’s story of duty and devotion had long resonated with the people of Liverpool. He was born around 1905 and belonged to 20-year-old Lieutenant Leonard Comer Wall, a war poet from West Kirby on the Wirral, who was posted to the Western Front in September 1915 after obtaining a commission with the 275th Brigade Royal Field Artillery ‘A’ Battery, 55th West Lancashire Division.
Shortly before his death at the Battle of Ypres in June 1917 the young Lieutenant made one very special request. His wish was that, should he was killed in action, his campaign medals and decorations be buried with his faithful horse Blackie. During the battle Blackie sustained severe shrapnel injuries but nonetheless he remained in front line service for the remainder of the conflict, one of an estimated eight million horses that served during the First World War. By 1918 he had seen action in the battles of the Somme, Ypres, Aras and Cambrai.
That moving final request was fulfilled when Blackie died years later, in 1942, and was buried in Halewood, Liverpool, at the site of a horse sanctuary where he was seeing out his final days. Now Blackie’s grave is to become the centerpiece of a new housing development, following a public campaign to save it for posterity.
The grave had been threatened with demolition after the closure of an RSPCA animal centre built on the site of the horse sanctuary. Historic England intervened to give Blackie’s grave a Grade II listing, making it the only resting place of a First World War horse to be protected in this way. The grave will be incorporated into a striking memorial to Blackie set amid a wild flower meadow, with its own pedestrian and cycle route to encourage visitors to view the site.
Horse like Blackie were integral to the war effort, performing cavalry roles but also pulling ambulances, moving supplies, guns and equipment. The vast majority died, and their value was such that some troops were told that losing a horse was a more significant loss in tactical terms than losing a human soldier.
At the end of the devastating conflict Lieutenant Wall’s mother Kate bought Blackie from the Army and lent him to the Territorial Riding School in Liverpool. His tasks included leading the city’s May Day Horse Parade with another former warhorse called Billy.