Little known for more than a century, the story of Captain Alexander Wallace MC and his faithful war horse, Vic, is now the centrepiece of a new exhibition at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre thanks to husband and wife volunteers Michael and Sian Brewis and their lockdown research for the Animals at War exhibition.
Captain Wallace was the son of an Arbroath vet, who personally selected the mare to go to France with his Royal Field Artillery officer son. Vic was one of 131 war horses to serve with the Forfarshire battery of the RFA and the only equine amongst them to survive the conflict. Together, the pair saw action in battles including the Somme and Passchendaele. Captain Wallace’s gallantry was honoured with the Military Cross in the 1919 New Year Honours list. And his devotion to his trusty mare saw him instruct his brother to buy the animal on her return from war.
In a truly astonishing moment of fate, Vic was being led along London’s King’s Cross station platform for her return to Scotland at exactly the same time Captain Wallace was returning from leave. The pair were re-united and Captain Wallace was able to send Vic back to the fields of Rossie between Arbroath and Montrose. Vic went on to become a show-winner, living out her days in post-war rural tranquillity on the Angus coast.
Captain Wallace emigrated to America soon after the war. Descendants, including his Massachusetts-based grandson, John, joined the exhibit opening ceremony by video link as the new display was unveiled. Now Captain Wallace’s and Vic’s story is immortalised for all to see in the Centre’s exhibition, which is already attracting much attention since it was officially opened earlier this month.
Sian said: “Stuart Archibald, the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre chairman, hosted the event. War Horse Memorial ambassador, Lesley McKenzie from Aberdeen joined us, with her War Horse Memorial maquette, along with Lieutenant Colonel Katy Badham-Thornhill REME. Members of Captain Wallace’s family joined us virtually and his grandson, John made a short speech. He said ‘I am honoured to be virtually among you and pleased and grateful for the work of the dedicated volunteers in making this story so visible. We often looked at pictures of my grandfather and Vic. ‘Sandy’ was a quiet man with a twinkle in his eye. When a horse show came to town, he would always gather up the grandchildren and take them to the show. This exhibition is special to me and now we can show it to the world’.
“Lesley also spoke to the family, telling them about the War Horse Memorial (our magnificent statue stands in Ascot, near the racecourse) and I spoke to tell the story of Vic and Captain Wallace and how we researched the story. STV news covered the event as well as the Scottish Sunday Express and the Dundee Courier. We are truly honoured to be the guardians of the Vic and Captain Wallace story and artefacts.”
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