We start the New Year with the latest addition in our search to find one hundred hero horses. Vonolel, a nimble grey Arab horse, purchased in Bombay by Field Marshal Lord Roberts who bought his trusty steed while he was still a major soon after the Lushai Expedition of 1871-1872. During which he defeated the son of a locally renowned chief after whom the horse was named. He carried his master on the 300-mile (480km) march from Kabul to Kandahar during the Second Afghan War (1878-80). The pair were a perfect match. Lord Roberts was only 1.2m tall (5 feet 4 inches), while Vonolel was little bigger than a pony.
Vonolel was his master’s only reliable horse during the War, and carried Roberts on the celebrated march from Kabul to Kandahar. Thereafter he became a familiar sight at ceremonial parades and camps of exercise throughout India. He accompanied Roberts to Ireland where the latter served as Commander-in-Chief from 1895 to 1899. Roberts said of his friend “During the 22 years he was in my possession he travelled with me over 50,000 miles, and was never sick nor sorry.” Lord Roberts had this bowl made to commemorate his horse. It is decorated with Vonolel’s hooves.
Queen Victoria awarded Vonolel three medals for his service. He also had the honour of being in the procession for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. He died in 1899 and was buried at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.