1904 09 09

1904 September 9th       A Riderless Charge

Seven Hundred Cavalry Horses Stampede

The stampede of over 700 cavalry horses occurred in the encampment of General French’s cavalry force on Baddesley Common in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Soon after midnight it was reported that an officers charger had fallen in its lines, and was unable to rise. A veterinary surgeon, who saw the case, found that the animal had broken one of its legs, and ordered that it should be destroyed. A slaughtering instrument, known as the silent hammer, was used, but failed to effect its purpose, and in order to put the horse out of its suffering a revolver was produced.

The flash and report so startled some of the adjoining horses that they broke away from their tether. As they dashed along the line, hundreds of others followed their example, and trampled some tents filled with sleeping men to the ground.

A scene of indescribable confusion followed. The attendants promptly raised the alarm, and all the soldiers in camp hurried out to try and drive the animals back: but it was absolutely impossible to stop the onrush. In their efforts to do so several men received minor casualties, one trooper being kicked in the face.

Startled Southampton

Part of the common is fenced with barbed wire, and the frightened animals, in their mad rush, dashed against it, many lacerating their limbs, which were horribly torn. Their screams of terror and the consequent panic were terrible. They scattered in all directions, some taking the Romsey road, others careering wildly across the country, while another contingent made for Southampton. They entered the town by several routes at full gallop, the ring of their hooves on the hard roadway resounding like a number of anvils in the stillness of the night. Several of the animals were severely injured in their headlong flight. Part of the Southampton tramway route is under repair, and the horses, in their reckless rush, came to grief against the obstacles and trenches and smashed the guiding lanterns to atoms. Like the charge of a cavalry regiment another squadron careered down the High Street and, reaching the ancient Bar Gate, smashed themselves against the masonry in their frantic efforts to force a way through the narrow passage.

Plunged into the sea

A number of the animals made their way to the water, into which they plunged. Men in boats put out and sent in as many as possible, landing stages having to be broken down to get the horses ashore. Several animals were drowned. One broke its leg with a fall near the entrance to the town pier. Another injured its shoulder and both had to be killed. Others were injured by the iron-shod picket pegs which they carried off, and which dragged behind them.

Another drove of seventy of the stampeded horses galloped through Winchester, making towards Aldershot. Many were shockingly injured. A coachman named Chandler stopped nineteen out of twenty-two horses which passed him.

Immediately after the stampede several parties were sent out to scour the country for miles round. Some of the horses were found lying in an exhausted state by the roadside, and others, shockingly injured, had to be slaughtered.

A telegram sent from the camp at a late hour on Sunday stated that between 80 and 100 horses were unaccounted for. Twelve animals were killed in camp, and many others elsewhere. Fully two-thirds of the horses were suffering from fractures, cuts and bruises. A train-load of wounded animals was sent back to Aldershot for surgical treatment.

Three hundred and seventy one of the horses which stampeded at Baddesley Common, Southampton, on Sunday morning, left Romsey station on Tuesday morning on special trains for Aldershot. Many of the animals were in a pitiable plight, being injured chiefly on the legs. The scene at the station was of a very animated character when the horses of the 8th and 14th Hussars were entrained to be taken back to Aldershot, and although many looked fairly well, others were in a most pitiable plight, with bandages on fore or hind legs, suppurating knees, and wounds on other parts. Some could only with difficulty walk at all, and it is a wonder how they could have covered the 2½ miles from Baddesley Common. It needed three special trains of about 24 trucks, waggons, and coaches, to convey the whole party, which consisted of 19 officers, 250 men, and 371 horses.

The first train left at 11.10am and the other two were timed to leave at 12.30 and 2.15pm. Col. Duff was in command of the 8th Hussars, and Major Tickell of the 14th. Inspectors Ballard and Fullbrook, with Mr Judd, the station agent, attended to the work of getting the poor lame horses into the trucks and boxes, and very smoothly were all the arrangements carried out. One could not help noticing that the Tommies had a somewhat sad look about them as they led their sick chargers in, and certainly the appearance of many of the latter touched the sympathies of the spectators.

The untoward event did not check the progress of the manoeuvres, for another cavalry regiment was sent down from Aldershot, post haste, and embarked with the rest of the troops at Southampton.

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