Whilst compiling a database of Poole servicemen from the Absentee Voters Register of 1918, it soon became apparent that there were a number of soldiers in the Army Veterinary Corps (A.V.C) who all lived in the same area of Lower Parkstone. Seven of these men lived in Courthill Park Road, Florence Road, and King’s Road. Three of them were NCOs and four were privates.
In turn the 1911 Census shows that at least three of these men worked with horses – as a carter, a coachman and a carman respectively – before they joined the A.V.C.
After the outbreak of WW1 the A.V.C was reorganised to provide a mobile veterinary section as part of each Division that went overseas. Each of these sections had one Officer, three NCOs, sixteen Privates and a Shoeing Smith.
A number of Base Veterinary Corps Hospitals were also set up, mostly in France. These hospitals received at least 725,000 horses and successfully treated three quarters of them.
Although horses and mules are the animal most commonly associated with the A.V.C it undertook the care of all the animals used by the army, including: pigeons, camels, cats, dogs, and canaries. Photos of some of the types of animals used in WW1 can be seen here: 15 Animals That Went To War
During the First World War, horses and mules were used to pull artillery, ambulances and supply wagons – they were better than mechanised transport in mud, and over rough terrain. Additionally, the British Army continued to use mounted infantry and cavalry throughout the war.
By November 1918, there were 220,000 horses, 220,000 mules, 112,000 riding horses, 88,000 gun horses and 75,000 cavalry horses in service over all theatres. Half of these alone were in France.
These men from Poole were among the 1,300 Officers who served as Veterinary Surgeons, and the 27,000 men who served as N.C.Os and Privates.
In 1918 the A.V.C became the Royal Army Veterinary Corp.