“We formed up at Asluj and after dark off we marched. We were blocked by another brigade and when we got away had to gallop for about two miles. Couldn’t see, just chanced it, we passed a horse which had broken its neck and had been pulled aside. A little later old Dick [horse] went down into a hole and he and I sprawled onto the ground, there were about 100 hoofs about me and I was smothered like I went down in a football pack, but neither of us got hurt.” Sergeant Joe Burgess, Beersheba, Palestine, 30 October 1917
Forgotten Men is the long overdue account of the significant contribution to the Australian Army of the Australian Army Veterinary Corps in two world wars. One of the army’s smallest and least recognised corps, its humble beginnings and quiet work in the background belie the crucial role of the Corps in supporting wartime operations and dealing with logistical issues never envisaged before 1915.
While their place in military history is often overlooked, the men of the Australian Veterinary Corps deserve recognition. Animals were an intrinsic part of war – but – like the soldiers they carried or supported, they too had to be fed and watered, rested and cared for. Working quietly behind the scenes were the members of the Corps who laboured to ensure that horses and mules, camels and dogs and pigeons all played their part in bringing victory in two world wars. Stoic and hardworking, they unselfishly worked among the horrors of war, to provide the support needed for army units and their animals.
Tyquins account of the men of the Corps and decision to record its contribution to the Australian Army is candid and explores some of the popular myths. Not every soldier loved his horse, while many diggers were as proud of their camel or mule as their mates might be of a favourite mare. Indeed the mass of the soldiery in the 1st AIF was the despair of the veterinary corps for their ignorance of basic horsemanship and mistreatment of animals was the bane of senior veterinary officers and the military police alike.
While the Veterinary Corps reached its peak during the Great War, its role did not end when the guns fell silent in 1918. The Corps continued to support military activities across Australia until horsepower finally gave way to mechanisation in World War II.
Forgotten Men is a full account of the Corps’ operation from inception to dissolution and shows the magnitude of their contribution to the combat effectiveness of the Australian Army from 1909 to 1946. Importantly, this book finally brings the achievements of the officers and men of the Australian Veterinary Corps out of the shadows.