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Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses by Susan Brocker

October 31, 2012

Brave Bess and the ANZAC Horses by Susan Brocker. Pub. HarperCollins, 2010.

A well written, well researched novel about a little known battle field of World War One in which NZ soldiers and their horses took a vital part.

It is of course Palestine against the Turks a war in which Lawrence of Arabia made his name. TheNZ Mounted Rifles and the Australian Light Horse Brigade fought alongside each other with a variety of animals to assist them because of the desert conditions of the region. Horses, camels, bullocks, pigeons and dogs played their part and without them the war could not have been won.

This story is personified in the character of Bess the only horse to go away from NZ and return. Over 10,000 horses left NZ and overall over 8 million were killed on both sides. Staggering.

Bess is a brave horse who trusts her human rider, especially in battle when the bullets are flying and the noise of death is all around. bessbecomes a hero in the battles to drive the Turks away from the Suez canal and the Holy lands.

Great story that Michael Morpurgo would have struggled to write better. A beautiful scene is when the camels reach the coast and bathe in the sea up to their humps….like a herd of Loch Ness monsters. Wonderful.

Primary Intermediate and Secondary school pupils will like this book. I did it was great and only took me 2 hours.

The photographs of the horse and soldiers enhance the plot and give the book realness.

I have just been reliably informed by Fred MacDonald President of the Friends of Bess that 4 horses returned to NZ. This pleases me immensely but the error does not detract from Bess’s story or those of the brave men and horses who fought in Palestine in the Great War. The other horse were:-

Major General Sir Andrew(Guy) Russell – “Dolly”,Buried At Tuanui;Hastings
Colonel Charles Guy Powles-“Bess”,Buried At Forest Road Bulls Died 29-10-1934
Late Captain Richard Wardell Riddiford-“Beauty”,Buried At “Westella”,Fielding;Died 1924,
Late Lt. Colonel Goeorge Augustus King-“Nigger”,Buried At Tuanui,Hastings;Died 1924.
The Horses Arrived On Board S.S. Westmeath Ex Liverpool Via The Panama Canal, At Kings Wharf;Wellington On Saturday 20 Th July 1920.
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