The Horse Memorial is a provincial heritage site in Port Elizabeth in memory of the horses that served and died during the Second Boer War.
During that conflict Britain brought a large number of horses to South Africa; it is estimated that the total cost of all the horses acquired for the war was around 7 million pounds. More than 300,000 horses died in British service in South Africa.
The Horse Memorial, designed by Joseph Whitehead and cast in bronze by Cox and Company, Thames Ditton Works in Surrey, was unveiled on 11 February 1905 by the Mayor of Port Elizabeth, Mr Alexander Fettes. The monument commemorates the horses that suffered and died during the Anglo-boer War (1899–1902) and consists of life-sized bronze figures of a horse about to quench its thirst from a bucket held by a kneeling soldier, together with the inscribed granite plinth on which it stands and the base of which incorporates a drinking trough.
One of the principal reasons for Port Elizabeth taking such an interest in the movement, which started in 1901, was the fact that most of the horses brought to this country were landed there. The horses were shipped from all over the world, including 50,000 from the United States and 35,000 from Australia.
A ladies committee was formed with Mrs Harriet Meyer as president and £800 was collected for Messrs Whitehead and Sons, of Kennington and Westminster, to erect the statue.
The statue was originally located close to the junction of Park Drive and Rink Street, next to St George’s Park, but was moved to its present position in Cape Road in the 1950s. Click HERE to see the Horse Memorial in it’s original position.
The Horse memorial was unveiled on Saturday afternoon, February 11, 1905, with the Mayor at the time, Mr A Fettes, performing the ceremony.
The Mayor said in his unveiling speech; “The unveiling of this monument marks the completion of what has been an arduous undertaking on the part of those ladies with whom the idea of raising a monument to the horses originated. To raise a monument to the ‘brutes’ that perish is considered by many to be misplaced sentiment, while some are inclined to think with Louis Wain “that all animals have their season of happiness in a hereafter before their final effacement, as a reward for the trials they undergo in life, while under the dominion of man.” ~?Alexander Fettes, Mayor of Port Elizabeth.
In reply Mrs Harriet Mayer said; “Mr Mayor and Town Councilors, I have much pleasure in handing over to your care for public use, the South African War Memorial Trough. May it be preserved from generation to generation as a mark of the services of dumb animals to mankind, both in the labours of peace and in the perils of war.”
The horse stands 16 hands 2 inches, and the figure of the soldier is life size.
In addition to the memorial proper, there is a drinking trough for horses and cattle, and the wants of the thirsty wayfarer are also provided for. The design as a whole is an object lesson in kindness, and may appeal to the cruel or careless driver, and teach him that there are some who do not think it beneath them to attend to the wants of animals placed under their charge.
The inscription on the base reads: “The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion. Erected by public subscription in recognition of the services of the gallant animals which perished in the Anglo Boer war 1899–1902.”
In April 2015 local political party The Economic Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility for vandalising the Horse Memorial in Port Elizabeth.
EFF deputy chairperson for the Nelson Mandela Bay region, Bo Madwara, confirmed that the local chapter was behind the dismantling of the memorial.
The bronze statue of a kneeling soldier holding a bucket up for his horse to drink from was removed. The soldier was pulled off the base, and discarded on its side on the ground. The horse was still standing.
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