Author(s): Susan Brocker
This story is based on the true experiences of a remarkable horse called Bess, one of 10,000 NZ horses sent overseas to battle in World War One. Tragically, at the end of the war the horses could not return to New Zealand due to quarantine laws and a shortage of ships. Luckily for Bess, her master battled to have her returned home. She was quarantined with three other horses in England before being shipped back to New Zealand where she continued a pleasant pastoral life after her confronting wartime experiences.
Bess was one of 10,000 Kiwi horses sent into battle overseas during World War 1 and one of only four to return home. The jet black mare went by ship to Egypt where her owner Captain Guy Powles trained her to carry heavy loads in the hot, harsh desert. She galloped through deep drifts of soft sand, suffered through the deafening noise of machine-gun fire and stood guard over the captain when a shell exploded and threw him to the ground. At the end of the war, Captain Powles battled to have Bess return home with him and she spent the rest of her days on a farm near Bulls. She died in 1934, aged 24.
Brocker included Bess’ story in her 2010 book Brave Bess & the ANZAC Horses ($20 PB). Bess’ legacy lives on in this new book which shows the courage of the horses who faced extreme heat, disease, hunger, stress and injury. McGrath’s illustrations highlight the tough conditions, but not in gory detail.
This is a lovely story about a beautiful and noble creature, ideal for ages 4 to 8 years.