Stoke & Staffordshire

War horse statue unveiled at National Memorial Arboretum

Free Spirit statue with young ambassadors
Image caption The Memorial Appeal's young ambassadors helped to raise more than £100,000 for the statue

A statue to commemorate horses which died during World War One has been unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The Free Spirit statue, designed by Georgie Welch, was put on display in Alrewas after years of fundraising.

Tracey Francis, from the Free Spirit Memorial Appeal, said they wanted to highlight the "huge difference" horses make "in all walks of life".

The group raised more than £100,000 since the project began in 2014.

Image caption The statue was unveiled during a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum

Ms Francis, who runs Gartmore Riding School in Hammerwich, said it was "absolutely amazing" to see the completed statue and she was filled with "a sense of pride".

"I hope that people will come here, take time, and they'll be able to reflect," she said.

She was inspired to fundraise for the statue when she realised there was nothing at the arboretum for horses.

"The horse hasn't changed - it's still a true friend," she said. "It's courageous, it's very trusting and you can see it's beautiful."

Image caption The statue was designed to commemorate military hoses as well as other working horses

More than a million horses and mules were used by the British Army during World War One.

The animals were used to carry supplies, guns and casualties to and from the front line, as well as cavalry horses.

Military historian Graham Winton, who attended the statue's unveiling, said it was a "fitting tribute".

"Animals served in the war and they didn't have a choice," he said. "We tend to forget they existed."

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