Object of the Fortnight 27/06/2014
HARRY ROBERTS’ BADGE Saturday 28 June is Armed Forces Day. The Peace Museum will be open for visitors and has a stall at City park as part of Bradford Council’s commemorative event. Find our stall to find out about the three types of poppies, Bradford COs and soldiers in WWI. Visit the Museum to explore our new WWI Choices gallery.
Our object of the fortnight this week is the badge of the Bradford Pals, a group within the West Yorkshire Regiment in the First World War. The badge is from the uniform of Harry Roberts, a decorated solider from the war who afterwards refused to discuss his experience at war. The ‘logo’ of the West Yorkshire Regiment was a horse. Many horses from Bradford were sent to France and other areas to be used in the cavalry or to aid in other ways, such as carrying supplies. The Bradford Pals produced a journal, ‘The Tyke’, whilst they were at war, and it contains the story of a horse known as ‘Spare Parts’ used by the soldiers in the regiment. This badge is on display in the new WWI Choices gallery with more of Harry’s personal effects, documenting his time in the Pals, his bravery and awards.
Harry Roberts’ Bradford Pals badge
‘Spare Parts, never was a name so well deserved’. The story of Spare Parts echoes the story of Joey, the fictional horse that is the main star of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. This month, the Museum has been running poppy workshops prior to some performances of War Horse at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford. The workshops have focused around the Purple Poppy which remembers animals who have died or been injured in conflict, along with the traditional Red Poppy of remembrance and the White Poppy which calls to end all wars. Spare parts could be described as a horse that shouldn’t be loved, hence his name. In ‘The Tyke’ he is lovingly described as a bit of an ugly horse, with a lazy docile persona, rarely opening his one eye. Tales of troop experiences regularly featured in the Tyke, one tells of how an inexperienced rider was put off for life after a ride with Spare Parts, who in the end, felt so sorry for the horse, he dismounted and walked the rest of the way, thinking his weight was to blame for his poor health.
The story of Spare Parts ends sadly. He was eventually reclaimed by his old fighting regiment in the Cavalry, meaning he would have to go back into battle. He received the news like a ‘Derby Winner’, proudly waving his tail and opening his one glorious eye. There was not a dry eye in the Bradford Pals Battalion; all knew his fate. The story ends with ‘Hush: ‘Spare Parts’ is asleep’. He may have been an odd looking horse, if he could even pass as a horse, but he was loved by many. This shows how the big part these horses played in the lives of the soldiers at war; Spare Parts gave them entertainment and companionship. The tale of Spare Parts was very similar to other horses that were sent off to war. Just like the soldiers who bravely gave their lives for their country in the War, this why today the Purple Poppy exists to remember the sacrifice of these many animals. It wasn’t just horses that were used in the War to help the armed forces, but also dogs and carrier pigeons, with many of these being killed or harmed. Even today animals serve alongside the armed forces. Highly trained sniffer dogs are used to find bombs and landmines, such as in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are crucial; they often save the lives of the soldiers in their regiment by finding the bomb before it detonates. Do animals have a choice as to whether they want to serve or not? Is it just as important to remember the service animals as well as the people?
By Shannen Lang.
Shannen is the Education and Collections Intern at the Peace Museum and a student at the University of Leeds. Shannen has lead the Museum’s Stories in Stone project which has uncovered the untold stories of COs buried at Undercliffe cemetery, as part of the Choices project.