Ragtime

As far as war horses are concerned there is a tendency to disregard the Middle East and only think of the Western Front. Horses that served in other theatres get forgotten, (not by me) So here is a short story of one of the Empire’s Horses that served in Mesopotamia. His name was Ragtime.

Ragtime was born at an army farm in the Punjab. Mum’s name was Gladrags, dad’s Geneva. Geneva was an Arab, no idea what Mum was, but the Empire’s horses were multi-cultural a long time ago. Ragtime lived a normal military horse’s life. Basically three years of relative free running on the farm before being sent to Jhansi and the garrison there. At Jhansi Ragtime learnt all the skills required of an Army horse. Parades, riding school, and of course Polo. In 1914 Ragtime, and Galopia the horse stabled with him, was posted to Baluchistan, any guesses as to why I don’t tell stories about horses yet? His rider at Baluchistan was Lord Middleton.

Middleton became very fond of Ragtime, and when Middleton’s regiment was sent to Mesopotamia Ragtime was soon to follow. Ragtime’s war was basically the same as the other horses war. The army not only fought the Turks, but a Guerrilla war against Arab tribesmen. Added to this was the heat, long marches, food and water shortages. Lord Middleton was sent back to India and the government brought ragtime. So Ragtime and Middleton were separated and I doubt they ever thought they would see each other again.

After the war Ragtime was one of the horses in a polo match in Baghdad. Lord Middleton was in the opposing team. There was instant recognition between man and horse. Ragtime had a scar on one of his legs just above the hoof, this enabled Middleton to identify the horse as Ragtime. Lord Middleton then exercised a right to buy his old mount. Ragtime’s military career was not over though. Middleton was still a serving officer and Ragtime was his horse during an Arab insurrection. Most of a horse’s life was the stereotypical life of a British colonial officer’s horse. polo. hunts and state occasions. Now circa 1922 Ragtime and Middleton were in Calcutta, and Ragtime was a trumpeters mount in the Governor’s bodyguard. Still with Lord Middleton who was in command of the bodyguard. Lord Middleton returned to England in 1923, Ragtime followed in 1924. For the rest of Ragtime’s life Lord Middleton looked after Ragtime at Birdsall House in Yorkshire.

For his army service Ragtime carried five medals on the band over his brow, Pip. Squeak, Wilfred, one for the Arab insurrection, and one for long service and good conduct.

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