Special commemoration for war horse Songster
IN A quiet field close to Woodhouse Eaves lies the grave of Loughborough’s most famous war horse, Songster, a grave that has remained unmarked for many years until now.
Songster paraded with the men and horses of the Leicestershire Yeomanry in Loughborough’s Market Place in August 1914 at the outbreak of WW1. Throughout the war Songster and his rider, Trooper Bert Main, endured together the horrors and hardship of that war.
By the end of WW1 it is estimated that some eight million horses and mules had died and, of those that survived, only the youngest and fittest were brought home. Songster was one of the lucky ones; brought back to be sold at auction.
But the bond between horse and rider was still strong.
Bert Main travelled to London and bought Songster at auction along with a second horse, Fenian, the war horse of Squadron Sergeant Major Harry Poole. After a short time stabled at Garendon, Songster joined Fenian at the farm managed by Harry. It was there that the two horses who had endured so much in the war settled down for a peaceful retirement.
Songster’s only job was to pull a milk cart once a week to Loughborough Market. Whilst there he would enjoy a drink with the old comrades of the Yeomanry in the club room above the Old Boot Hotel. The battered stair rods bore testimony to Songsters visits: as Bert said, “that horse is as fond of a glass of beer as I am”
Songster rode with the Quorn Hunt and attended the annual camps with the Leicestershire Yeomanry till 1936. He never lost his lust for life but sadly, at the grand old age of 40, that life came to an end in January 1940. Songster was buried with full military honours along with the medals earned in WW1; buried in the field in which he had grazed for so many years.
A few years ago the present owner of the land gifted the marker on Songster’s grave to the Loughborough Carillon Museum but last year it was suggested that a replica be made and placed on the grave.
On Sunday, June 3, a service was held at the grave attended by the families of Bert Main and Harry Poole, members of the Leicestershire Yeomanry Association, soldiers of ‘E’ (Leicestershire & Derbyshire Yeomanry) Squadron, Royal Yeomanry personnel and other invited guests. An exact replica of the original grave marker was unveiled.
Scouts from the Thorpe Acre Troop camped out over the weekend at the farm and provided the refreshments at the reception that followed the service. They also had the treat of being able to climb all over the armoured vehicle brought to the service by the modern day Yeomanry men: a vehicle that carries the name ‘Songster’.
Mrs Mary Baird, a volunteer with the Carillon Museum and who organised the event said: “That Songster survived so long was down to his indomitable spirit, the care and love he had, both in France and back again in England, and I imagine a perverse streak that kept him going!
“It was an honour and a privilege to commemorate the life of a truly remarkable horse and to remember the sacrifices made by both men and horses in defence of our country.”
Trooper Bert Main is pictured with Songster, Loughborough’s very own war horse.