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Bass war horses effort shown in documentary

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 14, 2014

By Rob Smyth

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A NEW online documentary that chronicles the role that Burton brewery horses played in the First World War has been released as part of the centenary commemorations.

The BBC has put together the close look at how the horses from Bass were 'mobilised for war' as part of its World War One At Home series.

More than 300 animals were requisitioned by the British Army and very few returned home after the conflict had ended.

A spokesman for the BBC said: "In pre-1914 Burton, the main mode of transport was the horse.

"At what was the Bass Brewery it is thought 300 shires were used to transport beer and do all the heavy lifting of other materials used in the brewing process.

At the outbreak of war, the British Army requisitioned many of the horses.

"No horse under 15 'horse height' was used by the military, but the shires being so big were prime targets.

"Many of the Bass shires were shipped to the front lines in Flanders.

"It's not known whether any returned, but the horses that did come back were reported unfit for purpose, shell shocked by the battles and experiences they had on the front lines.

"The same period saw huge innovations in machinery and transport.

"Many believe that this, combined with the death of hundreds of thousands of horses on the battlefield, led equestrian transport to become redundant."

Despite the fall into obscurity due to the boom in transport and machinery, the shire horses became a permanent fixture at the former Bass Museum.

After the then Coors Visitor Centre closed its doors in June 2008, the horses were first based at the Blue Cross Equine Centre in Dovecliffe Road, Stretton, before being moved to be reunited with former Coors Visitor Centre horsemen David and Barry Coffen at the Unicorn Brewery, in Stockport.

They have since returned to the town and are housed at the National Brewery Centre, in Horninglow Street.

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