A new rural trail has been launched in celebration of war horse Warrior, dubbed as the horse the Germans could not kill, who survived some of the First World War’s most famous conflicts and saw out his days on the Isle of Wight.
In 1982, former Children’s Laureate and award-winning author of children’s books Michael Morpurgo introduced the world to War Horse, in his story of how the fictional Joey and farmer’s son Albert Narracott were lost and then reunited during the horrors of World War One.
What the Isle of Wight has possessed for almost a century, however, is the story of a “real” War Horse – a courageous thoroughbred called Warrior – raised on the Island by Winston Churchill’s great friend Jack Seely, who lived first at Brook House and then at Mottistone Manor (in the headlines recently, as the venue where Benedict Cumberbatch married Jack Seely’s great, great grand-daughter Sophie Hunter).
Dubbed by the newspapers of the day as the “Horse the Germans Could Not Kill”, Warrior was first led into battle in 1914 on the Western Front by General Jack Seely, and survived some of the First World War’s most famous conflicts, and actually led a famous cavalry charge near Amiens on March 30th, 1918.
After returning to the Isle of Wight at the end of 1918, Warrior became a local hero and then went on to win The Lightweight Race at the Isle of Wight Point to Point on March 30th, 1922, exactly four years on from that heroic day in France. He was ridden that day by young Jim Jolliffe, who had known him as a foal.
This year, Warrior’s achievements have been recognised through the launch of a new trail, which follows much of the route he once followed while being exercised, from Brook Beach to Carisbrooke Castle – where the museum now has an exhibition dedicated to his story, and a small statue erected in his honour.
The new 6-mile, circular Warrior Trail can be tackled on foot, by bike, and even on horseback, and now leads visitors around the West Wight and along to the beach at Brook Bay, where Warrior once trained to confront the dangers of battle in the surf.
Warrior himself lived in happy retirement at Mottistone until his death in 1941 at the remarkable age of 33. In 2014, Warrior was honoured with the presentation of a prestigious PDSA Dickin medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – the first WW1 recipient of ‘animal’ VC on behalf of all animals that served.
Visit Isle of Wight has helped to create the new 6-miles trail, and will be producing a free leaflet for visitors to follow in Warrior’s hoof-prints. Further details are available online.
Expressing his support for the Warrior Trail, James Berresford, CEO, Visit England said:
“Visit England is pleased to officially recognise the Warrior Trail, which will encourage visitors to explore the Isle of Wight’s beautiful landscape – and learn about one of the most inspiring stories of heroism to emerge from World War 1.
“Anyone visiting and walking, cycling or riding this route will be in for an incredible experience that will leave indelible memories and Visit England is delighted to offer its support”.
David Thornton, CEO, Visit Isle of Wight meanwhile added:
“This new trail has been created for the Isle of Wight to highlight and honour the contribution made by this special war horse. It gives visitors the opportunity to follow the trail of the real-life “War Horse” Warrior and provides yet another facet of the Island’s rich, cultural history”.
Brough Scott, MBE, grandson of “Galloper Jack” Seely said:
“Having the Warrior statue in Carisbrooke Castle to help everyone remember the Warrior story is great for our family, to now have the Warrior Trail for everyone to tread where he trod is even better”.
To download the new Warrior Trail, please go to: http://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/walking/warrior-trail