Sunday, August 7, 2011

My grandfather's war horse

A touching memorial at Chipilly, France on the bank of the Somme river shows a WW1 soldier comforting his dying horse on the battlefield.

I have no photographs of, nor did I ever meet my Italian grandfather who had to say goodbye to his farm horse after it had returned from WW1.  What I know of my grandparents came from the stories of their history by my Italian born mother.

They came from the region in Italy known as Marche, what is now a resort town on the coast of the Adriatic Sea called San Benedetto del Tronto.  It is a beautiful town lined with palms, long white sandy beaches and the Apennines to it's back.

My mother's recall of the first world war was as a 10 year old girl in 1915.  Running and playing amid the bombing in the piazza, she suffered shrapnel injury to her leg which the doctors wanted to amputate.  My grandmother said no, preferring to take her to a Russian doctor that lived high in the mountains where he used herb poultices to save her leg.  Some of her tales were pretty horrific dealing with death daily, becoming routine. A very different reality than my carefree golden childhood here in America.

I got my love of horses from my grandfather who loved his farm horse and had to give him up to the army for service.  The horse did come home after the war; which was rare since most of the millions of horses used perished.  I have forgotten the name of the horse, but he did not come home unscathed.  He returned without an eye and ill from injuries.  It grieved my grandfather to have to put him down, but he did.  The grave was dug by hand and the horse covered in lime before covering.  Next morning found the horse had been unearthed by hungry neighbors for the meat.

It is a terrible thing to be grieved enough to bury a beloved horse; and yet, people being hungry from the shortages and ravages of war.  Everyone was hungry and my mother remembered her whole life what it felt like to starve.  She would cry for food until she saw her mother cry for her hungry children, then my mother stopped.  Her fondest memories were of the American soldiers giving up their chocolate bars to the children, and the Salvation Army handing out hardtack to stave off hunger.

Such is war...

War Horse...the movie trailer


  1. what a lovely story. I live in Italy myself,and find my neighbors war stories terribly sad. Lovely blog btw.

    1. Thank you Jessica,
      I'd love to visit Italy someday...Nancy

  2. What a touching story! I had not seen the picture of the WW1 soldier with his dying horse. That touches the heart strings!