The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Work Of The "Mobile Vets."
Every military unit is more or less like a complex piece of machinery, made up of many parts, assembled together and co-ordinating into a smooth-running outfit. A Mounted Division has a variety of what may be termed spare parts, from a travelling pathological laboratory to Signal Squadrons complete with modern wireless equipment. To many of us it is not apparent how appreciably many of these "spare parts" contribute to the making of an effective fighting force of the unit to which they are attached. Such units as the Mobile Veterinary Sections are attached to every Mounted Brigade.
In four years of war a wonderful improve-ment has been effected in the various services without which no army is complete. The Vet-erinary Service is a striking example in this connection. Possibly this is not so apparent to the average soldier as it is to the more initiated. I happened to be attached to the "Mobile" for a few weeks, and it was then that I realised the importance of the work carried out by these sections. This work deepens the impression, that of all horses gathered from the four corners of the earth, our Colonial horses are second to none. Being a New Zealander, naturally I have a prejudice in "favour of our New Zealand bred horses. A he risk of engendering the wrath of every Light Horseman on the Desert, I must give pride of place to the prads from Maoriland, be they rides, packs or draughts.
At the outset, it will be granted that few countries have less in common than New Zealand and the Sinai where men and horses have spent so many weary months. No enviroments could be more diverse than the trackless Desert wastes of Sinai and the rolling pastures that are the heritage of every New Zealand bred horse. True, the latter part of last year brought us into more hospitable country, but since the early part of 1916, when the forces of Turkey menaced the water way that means so much to the Colonial Empire, the lot of the horse has been, to say the last, unenviable. Horses have lived and worked—aye, worked as they have surely never done before—in a climate that is admittedly one of the most trying in the world. They have had to exist on fodder not always of the best, and have been prey to diseases pecular to tropical climates. Yet, to-day, you find dozens of horses that came out with the Main Body and have withstood the ravages of close upon four years of strenuous Desert life. In the main, it is due to the care lavished upon them by the troops.
Ordinarily a Mobile Veterinary Section receives sick and wounded horses and evacuates them to Base hospitals, in the same way as a Casualty Clearing Station deals with its human charges. The Colonial Mobile Sections went in for a new departure and nursed their sick and wounded quadrupeds back to health in the field, evacuating practically hopeless cases only. In this way the New Zealand Brigade has been able to keep together its New Zealand bred horses. The. percentage of horses evacuated has, for a six-monthly period, ranged below three per cent., and that during a time that witnessed some strenuous stunts. Dealing with several thousand horses, losses are inevitable, and naturally, losses in action are unavoidable. The greatest enemy of the horse is probably aircraft. Could our dunb friends speak, they would surely wax eloquent upon the manifold iniquities of enemy aircraft, and probably they would inveigh against the prostitution of man's greatest engineering triumph to such base uses as hurling death and destruction from the skies at unoffending horses.
Sand, too, is a deadly enemy of horses and they have assuredly had their fair share of it. In the sandy portions of the country, despite elaborate precautions, you seemingly must eat a certain amount of sand with your meals, and the horse gets his share, bringing in its train abdominal troubles that, in an ordinary environment, would be almost entirely absent. The exigencies of transport decree that fodder must be in a more or less concentrated form, and this too militates against the health of the horse; yet it is usually the object of wonder to every "horsey" man in a new reinforcement, that the animals should look so well out here.
A Mobile Veterinary Section consists of an officer and twenty odd men, and at times of stress they may have anything up to 250 sick and wounded horses upon their hands. When the number of patients gets above what the men regularly employed at this work can look after, extra helpers are borrowed from the Regiments.
A few "Mobile Vets" usually travel with the Brigade when trouble is expected, and it is their business to take over the horses that become casualties and remove them back to wherever the Mobile hospital may be. The wastage of horse-flesh has been kept down to a minimum that probably ranks second only to the achievement
in shipping horses to this side of the world, with a percentage of loss that will surely remain a record in transporting animals by sea.