Review Blog

Apr 24 2016

Brave Bess and the ANZAC horses by Susan Brocker

cover image

HarperCollins, New Zealand, 2010. ISBN 9781869507916
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Subjects: New Zealand. Army - History; Cavalry - History, World War; 1914-1918 - New Zealand. When the call to arms came in 1914, young New Zealand lads bravely joined up to support their King and Country. In the early stages of this epic war, 3700 horses were also dispatched to support the troops in the battlefields. Between 1914 to 1916, 10328 horses were sent on treacherous sea voyages with the Mounted Rifle Brigade into the Middle East. Only four horses returned to their home soil after the war, one of these was Brave Bess. New Zealand author Susan Brocker's historically accurate and insightful account is narrated from this jet-black mare's point of view. Her style of writing with rhythmic and alliterative descriptions, drives the fast-paced narrative, empathetically dealing with the harsh realities of war both for the soldiers and their horses. Told in chronological order, each chapter begins with a brief account of the location, battle and engagement, followed by Bess's story fighting against her natural instincts to flee from the noisiest and most frightening of situations. The lesser known battles in the Bible lands of Palestine, at Beersheeba, Jaffa and Moab, fighting the Turkish Army, provide the reader with further understandings of the spirit, courage and dogged determination displayed by the ANZAC soldiers, their horses, camels and their supporters.
Black and white photographs taken from trooper's albums, add further insight into this story that celebrates the important role undertaken by these warhorses. An excellent historical resource for Upper Primary and Lower Secondary students.
Rhyllis Bignell

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