Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Of Christmas. And unicorns. And glittery bathbombs.

A highlight of my year as a child was when the November horse and pony magazines hit the shelves, together with their Christmas gift guides. Why not this charming pair of jodhs from Swaine, Adeney, Brigg for double the price of my entire riding kit? Or this extraordinarily expensive china horse at roughly the same price as a small car? Why not indeed? I could always hope.

So, in tribute to those long ago, black and white pages of glory, here is my own selection of horse-themed gifts. Like those articles, I have chosen things at which you will gasp and say What is she on? And also the odd, more reasonable contribution.

If you no longer wish to smell of the stable, then you might like to try Parfums de Marly, whose creations are mostly named after horses. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have said the Galloway (probably ancestor of the Dales and Fell ponies) was elegant and white, but here in the world of splendidly expensive French perfumery that’s exactly what it is. The scent itself is from £160 at Harrods, but you can buy infinitely more reasonable samples from the Parfums de Marly website at 3 euros a pop.

If you don’t want to smell like a pony, you could dabble with Godolphin, Byerley or Darley, and if the foundation stallions of the Thoroughbred don’t appeal, there’s always Pegasus, or even Herod, which is vaguely appropriate to the time of year, though perhaps best saved until after Christmas.

Demeter's Library of Fragrances can provide you with bottled Fresh Hay, Riding Whip, Saddle, and Stable. (They can also fulfil your dreams should you wish to smell of cinnamon bun, dust, or indeed laundromat). Somewhat cheaper than Parfums de Marly, these are £15 each.

Unicorns were a bit of a thing in children’s literature a few years back, but thankfully have now receded into a pink-tinged distance. This is not at all the case for children’s toys, however. Liberty can supply you with a unicorn head decoration by Tamar Mogendorff for your child’s wall for £600.

I would suggest not buying the unicorn head together with the splendidly named unicorn snot, because the thought of the two of them getting acquainted is truly horrifying. 

Unicorn snot comes in some interesting colours, and is around £7.99 (it's on offer at the moment) from Flamingo Gifts, as well as Liberty. The makers say it washes off. 

I once made the huge mistake of buying, and using, a glitter bathbomb. NEVER do this. You will spend at least the next month removing glitter from places in your house and your person it was never intended to go.

Leave glitter to unicorn tree decorations. 

This one, at £19.95 from Liberty (probably my favourite shop ever) would be right at home on our tree, which is never themed. Well, it is. The theme is EVERYTHING. Everything the children have ever made. Everything of which we’ve ever thought in a moment of panicky madness ‘This! This is the thing that will make my tree beautiful!’ And then when you get it out, you wonder what on earth you were thinking. All of that. We have so much all of that, lovingly hoarded from year to year that we’ve now had to move to two trees.

Unicorns need not be restricted to children — oh no. Lush Designs do a unicorn cushion (it's £35.00), and a whole load of other unicornery for your house: aprons, lampshades and bags.

However, if you do have a small child to buy for who is still at the flinging crockery stage, you might like to try their unicorn child’s crockery set for £18.75 — made of melamine so it should in theory survive the swift journey from high chair to wall.

So there we have it. A horse-themed Christmas. Well, actually not — it was pretty much all unicorn, wasn’t it? In my travels around the wilder reaches of horse-themed merchandise I have found more. Watch this space.


Monday, 21 November 2016

Review: Carl Hester – Valegro, the Little Horse with the Big Dream

Ah, Valegro. Superstar dressage horse who made all our hearts flutter in the last two Olympics. If you’ve ever wondered how Valegro started off, and what life is like if you’re a horse on Carl Hester’s yard (and indeed if you’re a dog, a guinea fowl, or a human) then this is the book for you.

There’s not a great deal of narrative excitement in the book, as obviously we all know what’s going to happen. What we don’t know, however, is how Valegro got there, and that’s what this book covers – or at least his early life. The book is the first of a series and I admit I am looking forward to what happens when Valegro meets the woman who was to become his rider, Charlotte Dujardin. What this book tells you is what happens when Valegro is first shipped from Holland over to Carl Hester’s yard. 

We’re probably all familiar with some elements of his story, but this book introduces you to things you probably didn’t know, such as the Hester naming convention (all horses the year Valegro arrived were given stable names of fruits) and that Valegro busily passaged all by himself in Holland: actual proper passaging, and not just in the midst of general field mucking about.

The book does have considerable charm, and gives an excellent insight into the somewhat esoteric world of dressage; one that most children will have little to no idea about. That does mean that at times the pace drags a little, because of the very careful explanations to make sure that all readers, and not just the horsy, will understand what is going on. And I think on balance that that’s a good thing, as this book is intended for children, and not for me.

If you know a child who was charmed by Valegro at the Olympics, then this book should be an absolutely ideal Christmas present.


Thank you to Janet Rising for sending me a copy of this book.

Carl Hester with Janet Rising: Valegro, the Little Horse with the Big Dream
Matador: £6.99
Kindle: £3.99, Kobo: £3.47
Age range: aimed at key stage 2 (ie, for non UK readers, ages 7–11)

Themes: growing up, dressage

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Pony Tails and Puffin Books II

Puffin Picture Books to me had it just right. Their illustrations were things of simple beauty. They weren’t in any way child-like, quirky, or hitting a particular, temporary, zeitgeist. The illustrations of the only Puffin Picture Book I had as a child (Henry Wynmalen’s Riding for Children, found at a Methodist missionary society jumble sale) gave me a sunlit, rural world in which lived a perfectly behaved grey pony, and a kind and expert instructor who gave considered and elegant riding lessons where you had no need to wonder why you were being taught the hands-in-lap show ring style that had been out of fashion for decades. 

It, and its fellows, were the idea of Noel Carrington (1884-1989), who in the 1930s was working for publishers Country Life as an editor and designer. He had tried to interest them in his idea of a series of factual books for children that explained the world around them in books that were inexpensive, yet profusely illustrated in colour. Country Life already published stories for children on country subjects, and had its own Country Life Junior Library series. They were not, however, interested in Carrington's idea, and turned it down. Carrington took his plan to Penguin co-founder Allen Lane (1902-1970), and the two met in 1938 to discuss the idea. Lane was keen, but had to go away on business. By the time he returned, war had been declared. The outbreak of war did not discourage Lane — quite the reverse. He wrote to Carrington to say:

‘…evacuated children are going to need books more than ever, especially your kind on farming and natural history.’

The first books appeared in 1940, and despite what Lane wrote, focused firmly on contemporary events. Three of the first titles, War on Land, War at Sea and War in the Air, took children into the heart of the war rather than sparing them from it. But Carrington was eager to embrace his passion for nature, and books addressing current events were, in the main, shelved for a series of mostly factual books, all in the same format, twice the size of a Penguin paperback. Unlike the Puffin story books, all the titles were specially commissioned.

Out of the 120 Puffin Picture Books printed, there were six that have some horse content: three story books and three factual books. Carrington maintained his record of giving children the best by commissioning the famous sporting artists Lionel Edwards and Michael Lyne to illustrate (and write, in Edwards’ case) two of the books. Artist and naturalist Professor Allen Seaby wrote the third, Our Ponies, which appeared in 1949.  

Henry Wynmalen wrote the text for Riding for Children (1949). Wynmalen was a particularly inspired choice. He was a proponent of the continental style of riding that aimed to be in harmony with the horse, rather than produce a rider who could stick on the horse, at whatever cost, as it charged down the hunting field.  Riding for Children was his only children’s book. It takes beautiful, grey Silver (because greys always have a particular fairy tale charm their darker cousins do not necessarily have) and takes his rider through a series of riding lessons, all illustrated with rare charm by Michael Lyne, a talented sporting artist.

The other two factual books covered British breeds of horse and pony. Allen Seaby had, by this time, already written and illustrated a series of story books about British native pony breeds, such as Dinah the Dartmoor (1935) and Skewbald the New Forest Pony (1923). Our Ponies (1949) covers most British breeds of pony (the Irish Connemara is missed out).

Lionel Edwards, the author and illustrator of Our Horses (1945) was one of the foremost equine artists of his generation, whose books and paintings still command high prices now. Our Horses is a short, but thorough look at the horse in Britain, encompassing working horses and riding animals, their breeds, equipment and gaits. Sadly, for copyright reasons I am unable to show you a picture of this book, but if you ever find one, pounce upon it and make it yours. It is a gem.

The other three Puffin Picture Books to include ponies were stories. They all feature anthropomorphised animals who can talk and comment on their situation. The first, and most overtly pony-orientated of them, was Joanna Cannan’s Hamish. Published in 1944, this book is unusual in wartime equine fiction in being the autobiography of a pony, a subset of the pony genre which had died completely with the advent of war. Hamish is also unusual for its strong dose of Scottish nationalism:

‘Scottish people are famous for going to England and getting all the best jobs. [Mr MacTavish] told Hamish that if he were naughty and lazy no one would think he was a Scottish pony. They would think he was English or Welsh.’

Hamish gains courage from reminding himself that he is a Scottish pony, and he frequently encourages himself with cries of ‘Scotland for ever!’ Sadly, he only speaks Gaelic, which no one around him speaks, and it is not until he meets another Gaelic speaker that his problems are resolved.
It’s tempting, if fanciful, to posit Hamish as a representative of the many people who were displaced during the war, and who found themselves strangers in a foreign country.

Phyllis Ginger’s Alexander the Circus Pony (1943) and Diana Ross’s The Story of Louisa Who Loved Pretty Things (1944) are both stories involving circuses, and like Hamish, aimed at the younger child. Alexander the Circus Pony is rare and expensive and one has never crossed my ken. Louisa, Who Loved Pretty Things by Diana Ross, which appeared in 1944, is a simple and moral tale of companionship and loyalty. Louisa's noble, and poverty-stricken, owner releases her so she can go in search of the pretty things she loves. Louisa resolves to take no job unless they will take her old master too, and eventually manages to find one for them both in the circus.

What all these titles had in common was that they did not talk down to their readers. The Picture Puffin Books paid children the compliment of assuming that facts did not need to be simplified or edited; simply explained well with illustrations that complemented and developed what was presented in the text.

Phil Baines: Puffin by Design, 70 Years of Imagination 1940–2010 (2010)
Owen Dudley-Edwards: British Children's Fiction in the Second World War (2007)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Pony Tales and Puffin Books I

When I wrote Heroines on Horseback, I looked briefly at the impact that the development of paperback publishing had on the pony story. I was looking then at publishers like Armada, the paperback arm of Collins, whose business model was to produce paperback versions of books children wanted to read, in an often standardised and abridged format. Armada and Dragon tended to concentrate on popular series and genres: school stories, Enid Blyton, and of course the pony story. Puffin’s publishing model was subtly different. Puffin’s first editor, Eleanor Graham, aimed to give children the best of children’s literature, a model Kaye Webb, its next editor, followed and developed.

It’s interesting to look at the horse stories that Puffin published in the light of this, and that’s what this short series of blogs will do.

Eleanor Graham (1896-1984) was born to a father who was the editor of Country Life and a mother whose passion was books. After a brief interlude when she studied medicine, Eleanor’s life entered the world of the book and stayed there.  She left her medical studies to work in the newly established children’s department of Bumpus’s bookshop in Oxford Street, London. On starting work, she told her employer that she knew nothing about children’s books, and was told not to worry, as no one else did either.

This was not uncommon in 1927, when Eleanor began work. There was plenty of literature available for children, but little critical appraisal of it, or intelligent selection. Eleanor watched what children and librarians selected, and learned. She reviewed children’s books for the Sunday Times and the Bookman, and went on to work as children’s editor for Heinemann and Methuen. She wrote four children’s stories herself, the most notable of which, The Children Who Lived in a Barn (1938), addressed the stern, cold realities of children trying to survive on their own with little money. Marcus Crouch, in Treasure Seekers and Borrowers, described Eleanor as ‘the first literary critic in Britain to recognise that children’s books needed to be judged by standards as demanding as those applied to adult literature.’

She applied these standards to her work with Puffin Books, which was set up by the founder of Penguin Books, Allen Lane, in 1941, despite the fact there was a war on and paper restrictions were making life difficult for established publishers, let alone new ones. Added to that, publishers were reluctant to release the paperback rights of their books. These factors, and Graham’s insistence on quality, led to a slow expansion of the list, a list which consisted for some years of reprints.

All eight stories with horse content that Graham chose during her editorship were indeed reprints, and not one of them is the conventional girl plus pony story. Horses are certainly allowed to be at the forefront of the stories, but preferably at a distance, whether geographical or historical. This was a focus which was reflected in the rest of Puffin’s early input, with its historical stories like Jehan of the Ready Fists and Columbus Sails.

Will James’ Smoky (1941) was one of the first titles to be published. Like Gerald Raftery’s Snow Cloud, Stallion (1959), the horses are set firmly at the centre of the stories, but neither are conventional English horses, calmly cropping grass in a field. Snow Cloud runs wild in Vermont, and his story is one of redemption as he recovers from a life of abuse to become an equine hero. Smoky has a similar story after he is captured from the wild, becomes a fine cow pony but is then set on a path of decline and ill treatment until he is rescued by the man who first trained him.

Both books mirror the quintessential horse story, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, which made its appearance as a Puffin story book in 1954, and is still a timeless portrayal of the way man treats the animals who make his life possible.

Children come more to the fore in Muriel Dennison’s Susannah of the Mounties (1949), another book set well away from green fields and gymkhanas. Set in the Canadian Yukon, it is the story of nine-year-old Susannah, who longs to become a Mountie.

Kate Seredy’s The Good Master (1959) continued the theme of a distant location. Set in Hungary at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, it is more a farming story than one of horses, but the horses are ever-present. The book also uses one of the themes that became a mainstay of the pony story: the healing effect of the countryside. Urban Kate soon blossoms once at the farm. The Good Master is a particularly attractive book, filled with a sense of comforting and industrious family life, with everyone working for the common good, and pulling together despite drought, snow and accidents.

But three of these early Puffins are set in rural England. It’s interesting to speculate why Eleanor Graham chose two Romney Marsh titles from Monica Edwards’ output. Perhaps the Punchbowl Farm books, with their concentration on domestic and agricultural detail, were felt to be a little too close to the comfortable middle class world of most pony books. 

That is not something that can be said of Storm Ahead, a chilling picture of the effects of flood and tragedy on a community. Both Storm Ahead (1956) and The White Riders (1956), are really adventure stories in which ponies happen to appear. Although the ponies play pivotal roles in the stories, with Tamzin’s pony carrying her through the floods to Rye to fetch the doctor to Lindsay, and ponies being dressed up as spectral steeds in The White Riders, gymkhanas, and loving pony care are far from central. The attention is on the human, and not the equine.

The most conventional pony story of this period is Ann Stafford’s Five Proud Riders. Published by Puffin in 1953, it originally appeared in 1937, and is an early example of the time when the focus of pony stories was starting to move from the pony to the child. Ann Stafford does indeed get a gymkhana into this book, but has it all done and dusted before the real meat of the book, the trek the children go on, takes place. The real tension is from the human drama, and not whether or not the ponies get a red rosette.

Eleanor Graham retired from Puffin in 1961. She believed that children should be given the best that was on offer. Unlike later paperback publishers, she did not abridge stories. If authors had seen fit to give children 60,000 words in the original, that was what they got in the Puffin versions. Puffin proceeded with the entirely admirable aim of giving the children the best, and I find it cheering, and not the reverse, that some horse stories made that cut.

All publication dates are the Puffin publication dates. Most of my books are not Puffin firsts. The earliest titles, including Smoky, were originally published in the familiar three stripe format of the adult books. You can see them here.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Twentieth Century Children’s Writers, ed Chevalier
Marcus Crouch: Treasure Seekers and Borrowers
Phil Baines: Puffin by Design, 70 Years of Imagination 1940–2010

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review: Caroline Akrill - The Last Baronet

It’s been a while. It’s been a long while, but Caroline Akrill is back. After writing the best-selling Eventers’ Trilogy and a raft of other sharply observed and witty horse stories (not words that often go together) Caroline went off to do Other Things, like run J A Allen equestrian publishers, and run a hotel.

The hotel obviously provided rich comic fodder, much of which has surfaced in this book. Her first book for adults, it is a gloriously sweary, brilliant, vital read, which moves effortlessly from the comic to the dark and on to the romantic.

Set in the 1980s, when new money had not yet rushed through the world of the English country house and refurbished it, Rushbroke Hall has reached a state of almost terminal decline, reeking with rot, roof timbers open to the skies. Its owner, Sir Vivian Rushbroke, is in hock to the bank for staggering, sick-making sums of money. Rushbroke Hall needs a saviour, and it finds one in the unexpected form of Anna, a chef. A chef with secrets. And a legacy, which she is determined to invest in Rushbrooke Hall by turning it into a hotel.

Everything is focused on opening the hotel for Christmas, and interlaced with the increasingly desperate attempts to sort the house out are the stories of the guests. Akrill’s earlier books are notable for their rich mix of galloping eccentrics and you will find plenty of them here. A rich widow with a family that turns out to be dogs. An accountant desperate to escape, just once, the kindly meant but stultifying Christmases he suffers each year. A businessman dressed in the finest and most splendid hunting clothes whose first riding lesson takes place on a gypsy cob. And Henry Lamb. I particularly loved Henry Lamb, the antiquarian bookseller with a heart of pure, and concentrated murder.

And there are horses. Sir Vivian’s daughter, Nicola, runs one of those schooling operations that exists on a shoestring.

I absolutely loved this book. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I loved the mixture of sweariness mixed with quotations from the King James version of the Bible (Sir Vivian is a fan). I loved the fact that although there is romance, it doesn’t (thank the Lord) follow the traditional romance plot. I loved the dark comedy of it all; the brilliance of the dialogue and the sharpness of the characterisation. Akrill has lost nothing while she has been away.

 * * *

Caroline Akrill: The Last Baronet

Paperback due December 2016 (not sure if this will be available in the US or not. I'll try and find out).

Friday, 7 October 2016

We like to have an old horse about the place

I was born when the working horse was already an anachronism, but there were still plenty of reminders of what had been. My grandparents still had a stable, part of a long wooden building with a hen house, aviary and pig sty. It’s long gone, and is now under a housing estate, but when my sister and I were little we spent hour after hour playing with the completely imaginary animals, collecting imaginary eggs and mucking out the imaginary horse. We weren’t quite so keen on the imaginary pig, possibly because the pig sty was dark, gloomy and distinctly spidery.

Those buildings were a tangible connection to a way of life that had gone. Now the buildings have followed the way of the animals, family stories are the only connection to them: the cockerel that attacked my mother, the pony that pulled the cart, and the wartime pig.

None of the people reading this, I suspect, have any experience of what it is like to live in a world where there are working horses round every corner. If I want to see a horse, I have to get in my car and drive. I went looking for stories of what it was like when horses still tramped the streets, and found some wonderful things, like this brilliantly pithy description of horses and boys in Aberdeen:

 Jees, when a Clydesdale started pissing on the cobbles ye had tae move quick. Yet I never heard one fart ever.  The cartie driver would often give you lift and let you climb up to his rickety seat for a wee hurl o’er the chatterin cassies…. The shires were great feathered footed, gentle beasts who were housed overnight in magnificent terraced stables with ramps in Virginia Street near the Bannerman Bridge, and some mature shires had full military moustaches and would eat yer 'piece' gladly.  When the cartie driver went to dinner so did the horse tossing his nosebag up and doon tae get a crunchful and relieving himself in the aforesaid manner and also shedding a pile of well rounded manure that we could use as grenades against our enemies when they had dried but slightly.

Heavy horses. Not pissing. The Horse, J K Brunel Esq

I never realised the potential of horse muck to be used as a weapon, and I am sad about that. The use of pedestrian horse as Derby winner, I was right on top of, however. I was not alone. Tommy Weston, champion flat race jockey in 1926, worked as a chain boy at Dewsbury Station when he was 14. A chain boy was responsible for waiting at the bottom of a steep hill with a horse, ready to hitch it on to a railway wagon to help the horse pulling it up the hill. Once at the top, the horse would be unhitched, and led back to the bottom of the hill to wait for the next animal that needed help.

Tommy used to ride the horse back to the stables (Dewsbury was obviously more forgiving of this than other stables – it was a sackable offence at some stables for the chain boy to ride the horse). When he rode back, Tommy was no longer Tommy, chain boy, but a jockey, riding against his hero, champion jockey Steve Donoghue.

‘We used to win many a Derby together. Crouched over his neck, furiously waving my whip and digging my heels into his broad sides, we clattered along the streets at a terrific five miles an hour. Time after time I just managed to beat Steve Donoghue by a short head as we came ‘dashing’ up to the finishing line – the stable gate.'

Tommy Weston, having moved on from chain horses, riding at the Pitmen’s Derby
(now the Northumberland Plate), 1927.

Getting mugged by a horse keen on sharing your food was something that used to be familiar to every city dweller. The Yorkshire Evening Post, in an article written in May 1940, gave a wonderful description of what it was like to walk down a street where horses were working.

‘Shortage of petrol has put many railway horses back on the street deliveries again, and once more shoppers in Coney Street, York, have to run the gauntlet of inquisitive heads and nuzzling noses. Once more there is equine blackmail extracted in the form of sugar from the assistants at the shops where the lorries call, though it must be more difficult to provide the blackmail in these days of sugar-rationing. Still, it is forthcoming.’

The writer went on to describe one particular horse, Billie, a magnificent black, well known in York for his habit of ‘disregarding all laws about the proper place for horses. He invariably got his forefeet on to the footpath, and thought nothing of nosing into shop doorways for his lump of sugar if it was not immediately forthcoming.’

‘People would soon notice if you weren’t there,’ said British Pathé in their film about the life of an everyday working horse.

And they did, too. The Bedfordshire Times and Independent wrote in 1954 about a horse called Jack who had worked at Bedford Station, and had now retired. He had been bought by the ILPH, and was now working at Bromham Hospital, which had its own farm. The comments of Mr Reg Benson, the hospital farm manager who took the horse on, sum up the connection between man and horse that many still felt, despite the fact numbers of working horses were in steep decline when the article was written.

‘We like to have an old horse about the place. It doesn’t cost much to feed, and a farm isn’t the same without one. I know a farmer near here who would gladly take one on just for the sake of having a horse on his farm, even if he didn’t work him more than one day a month.’

But even wanting an old horse about the place was not enough to maintain the horse in anything like the position it had enjoyed pre-war. Stark practicality won out, and now the overwhelming majority of horses in Britain are leisure animals. They are private animals, not public.

~ 0 ~

* The Pitmen's (or Pitman's) Derby is a race that's still run. The Northumberland Plate still takes place, as it did in 1927, at Newcastle racecourse at Gosforth Park. The race was originally run on a Wednesday, and coincided with the annual holiday week at the local coalmines. Its popular name, the Pitmen's Derby, reflected the major importance of the coalmining industry in the area, and the popularity of the meeting with its workers. The annual mine holiday week was abolished in 1949, after the mining industry was nationalised in 1947. Presumably to maximise a different audience, the race was moved to a Saturday in 1952, Tommy Weston won the race shown in the clip, riding the horse Border Minstrel.

Bedfordshire Times and Standard, February 19, 1954
The Dewsbury Gazette, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 4 September 1952 (My Racing Life, Tommy Weston, reviewed)
The Doric Column, website,
Yorkshire Evening Post, May 4, 1940

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Fall of the Railway Horse

There are no horses working in the shunting and goods yards of British railways now: the last one retired in 1967. That horse was the last of a phenomenon that had lasted over 100 years. 

At its height, in 1913, there were 27,826 railway-owned cartage and shunting horses in the UK, a number Bryan Holden in his The Long Haul describes as declining to 9,077 by 1945. This decline had effects that were noticed by even the higher echelons of society. Riding Magazine, whose readership were not generally troubled by lack of money, noted with concern in its July 1951 edition that the number of railway horses on parade at the 55th Annual Show of the London Cart Horse Parade Society at Regent’s Park had dropped from 61 to 14.

The decline, as with the agricultural industry, was driven by the replacement of horses with motorised transport. This was not a process that happened immediately: it took 40 years. The Second World War, and the rationing of petrol meant a temporary halt to the reduction in horse numbers, but it was only temporary. After the war ended, the push to mechanise gathered pace.

Horse-drawn parcel vans, Euston, 1925. © National Railway Museum and SSPL

Before the war, the motorisation lobby had waged what Holden called ‘a relentless war of words against horse transport’. He quoted the district goods manager of the GWR in Birmingham telling the West Midland Traffic Commissioners in 1936 that Birmingham City Council was strongly behind the motorisation drive, saying that ‘before long it would be necessary to compel railway companies to take horses off the central streets.’

The horse’s disadvantages when compared with mechanised alternatives were described in a Manchester Guardian article of 1952. The Road Transport Division of British Railways had set up an experiment in 1952, where 100 drivers used electric horses rather than the real sort. Hull was one of the stations that took part, with 12 of the new machines (the YE 4102). Charlie Pulford was one driver who took part, with the machine taking the place of his horse, Tiny. Tiny was allowed one, and only one, advantage:

‘Looking at it from the driver’s point of view, Charlie Pulford thinks that the only advantage Tiny had was that he knew his own name and would come when you whistled, whereas YE 4102 does not, and will not.’

The article sang the praises of the electric horse. You didn’t have to stable it, groom it, or feed it, or use farriers and harness makers. The only maintenance the author appeared to think the YE 4102 needed was a quick wash with the hosepipe, which showed a touching faith in the machine’s reliability. Mr A A Harrison, an executive officer of British Railways argued that the electric horses saved the country petrol, cut the use of manpower from 30-60% (not I would have thought a winning argument, but the Manchester Guardian does not comment on it) and recharged during the evening, therefore not interfering with the demands of industry.

The Manchester Guardian did not shy away from one final advantage of the electric horse: it didn’t involve you in a moral conundrum when the time came to pension it off.

‘…one railwayman observed ‘at least with the electric horses when it comes time for them to be pensioned off, there will not be one group trying to put them out to pasture, and another trying to eat them.’’

The prospect of going to slaughter was a real one. The number of horses in Britain fell drastically in the post war years. In the Blue Cross’s 1952 annual report, Mr E Keith Robinson said that 719,500 farm horses had been slaughtered since 1939, and estimated that the equine population had reduced by 1.5 million over the previous 14 years. He did, however, single out the British Railways Executive for praise, as it had agreed to sell as many of its redundant horses to the League as it could afford to buy.

Charlie at Newmarket, 1967 © National Railway Museum and SSP
The public it appeared, had a special affection for the railway horse. For many people in towns, the agricultural horse was a distant creature, not often seen, but the railway horse was different. It delivered goods to their workplaces. It delivered parcels to their door. They fed Tom, or Ben, or Kitty, as they stopped on their routes. They were part of everyday life.

Local newspapers printed story after story describing vigorous local campaigns to save the railway horses of their towns and cities. Our Dumb Friends’ League set up a lease and lend scheme. They, with the public’s help, would buy railway horses, and then rehome them, with regular inspections to ensure the horses’ welfare.

On 29 January 1954, the Northampton Mercury reported the story of an anonymous local businessman (described as ‘the owner of a very small business at the end of a back street’) who had heard that the nine horses at the town's Castle Station were to be replaced with lorries, and might end up in the slaughterhouse. He contacted the Blue Cross and Our Dumb Friends’ League and together they started a campaign to raise the £540 to buy the horses.

Tiny and Darkie inspect a mechanical horse, 29 January 1954. Image © Johnston Press plc  
By February 16, the target had been reached.

In August, the Mercury printed a heart-wrenching description of the last days of Northampton’s railway horses, and their journey to a farm in King’s Sutton. It’s ironic that horses who spent their entire lives transporting things were terrified of being transported themselves.

‘After years of work at smoky Castle Station, this was a new experience for Joe and Ben. They munched the thick grass, and then, realising they had more space than they had ever seen before in their lives, they kicked up their heels and galloped off together in sunshine.

Happy though they were, they were not too keen to leave Castle Station, early in the day. It took fifteen minutes to load Ben into the Blue Cross horse ambulance in which they travelled, and twice as long to coax an extremely reluctant Joe.

So reluctant was Joe to leave that once he broke away and ran back to his stables, shivering with nervousness.’

A reluctant Joe being persuaded to leave Castle Station. Image © Johnston Press plc 

This must have been extraordinarily difficult for Harry Hawtin, the stable foreman who was ‘losing two old and trusted friends’. What happened to Harry is not related, and one can only hope he was deployed elsewhere on the railways, there being few public collections to help redundant railwaymen.

Being horsy had no bearing on people’s willingness to save the horses. Mrs Ann Newton’s interest in railway horses was sparked when she gave an ice cream to a piebald railway horse in Leeds who then called every day for a tit-bit. When he was sent to auction in Manchester, Mrs Newton bought him, and from that point, devoted herself to working with the International League for the Protection of Horses to save the railway horses of Leeds, as well as campaigning for the ponies and donkeys shipped for slaughter from Ireland.

Ann Newton was a distinctive figure at the horse sales. No tweedy woman she, in 1952 the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer described her thus:

‘The tough horse dealers and their hangers-on in a Manchester auction yard are now used to seeing the spruce figure of Mrs Newton, always looking as if she had come straight from a London fashion show, elbowing her way through the crowd to bid for a horse against stiff competition.

She never ‘dresses down’ to go to the auctions—sometimes she wears an even more daring hat than usual. She is an incongruous figure in the gloomy shed, filled with frightened horses and with shouting and cracking whips.

Ann Newton raised enough money to save several of the Manchester horses, and many others throughout the North.

The public’s enthusiasm for saving the horses did not always meet with unmixed joy from railway staff. A fund had been started in 1952 to save the redundant horses in Rochdale, and the Manchester Guardian reported one railway man as being ‘fed up with shoving hundreds of people, including children, round the stables.’

Hundreds of people visiting railway stables was an occupation that had obvious time limits. The very last railway horses worked at Newmarket Railway Station (a handsome building alas now demolished). The last of them all, Charlie, retired on 21 Feb 1967, after shunting his own horsebox onto the train which was taking him away from Newmarket Station. He went to Clare Hall, Ston Easton, where his working companion, Butch, had already gone.

Charlie achieved some celebrity as the last working railway horse, and British Pathé filmed him a few years before he retired.

The railway horses of Britain felt their way into the public consciousness in a way their mechanised replacements could not. However inconvenient and overly labour-intensive the horse came to be seen, the opportunity they gave the public to connect with another living being, to interact with an animal that was pleased to see you even if it was just because you gave it an ice cream, led to furious fights to save them.   


Our, S. C. (1952, Oct 22). RAILWAYS TRADE "TINY" FOR AN ELECTRIC HORSE. The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from

1, 500, 000 FEWER HORSES. (1952, Nov 03). The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from

Riding Magazine, August 1951, pg 313

Northampton Mercury - Friday 29 January 1954, Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Copyright Northampton Mercury - Friday 13 August 1954, Image © Johnston Press plc. Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

Yorkshire Evening Post - Thursday 14 August 1952, Image © Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

FUND GATHERS £180 TO SAVE HORSES. (1952, Jun 28). The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959) Retrieved from

Monday, 8 August 2016

The pony book in WWII - part two

This is part two of the talk I did at the Bristol children's books conference. You can find part one, which looks at pre-war pony books, and those books that generally didn't deal with war, here.

For pony book authors, there is a pretty sharp division by sex which appears to affect whether or not they wrote about the direct effects of the war. All those books that do were written by women, mostly writing about what life was like on the Home Front. They had their own war experiences: Primrose Cumming worked for a year on a farm. One day, a bomber crashed in the field of sheep she was tending. She survived, and used her experience in her book Owl’s Castle Farm (1942). She later joined the ATS and served for the remainder of the war in an anti-aircraft battery. Shirley Faulkner-Horne was married to a pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain.

Primrose Cumming’s Silver Eagle Carries On (1940) and Owl’s Castle Farm, Shirley Faulkner-Horne’s Riding with the Kindles (1941) and Parachute Silk (1944), Joanna Cannan’s More Ponies for Jean (1944), and Alice Molony’s Lion’s Crouch (1944) all dealt directly with the war and its effects. To a greater or lesser extent, they wrote books in which the horse plays several different roles. In its most concrete role, it helps people earn their living. It is necessary. But the horse also has an effect on morale: it provides a reminder of a world that was gone, and a hope for post-war world, as well as a distraction from the upheaval that affected people’s lives. These stories also documented, to some extent, what was happening on the Home Front, allowing readers to share experiences they might not have themselves, or provide validation of the ones they did.

Some books also tackled contentious issues, such as whether it was right for people to go on with riding as a leisure activity, and a distraction, at all.

Silver Eagle Carries On provides a vivid picture of the outbreak of war. It is the sequel to The Silver Eagle Riding School, in which three sisters set up a riding school after the family money is lost in the post-war years. Silver Eagle Carries On opens conventionally enough, with two of the sisters and their partner, Virginia, on a riding tour through the countryside with their clients. The remaining sister, Josephine, is in America with her show jumper, Anna, and the others buy a copy of the Illustrated paper, to see if Josephine and Anna are featured. They flip the pages over frantically to the back to find the piece on Josephine, entirely missing the headlines saying that Germany has marched into Poland until they notice the horrified faces of their fellow riders.
‘Headlines stared back at them from the paper: “Evacuees leaving London.” “Black-out in force.” “Army in readiness.”
War is declared two days later. The tour is called off, and immediately the girls are brought up against the realities of their situation. They cannot get home by train (most horses were transported around the country by rail at that time) as all trains have been commandeered to move troops. The cattle truck driver they manage to find to drive them home tells them to make the most of it, as petrol will soon be rationed. When they reach home, they already have two evacuees from London, Delphinium and Norman. Josephine and her horse Anna are on their way back from America and are in the middle of the Atlantic, so there is the constant fear of their ship being attacked.

Evacuees from Deptford at a Pembrokeshire farm
© IWM (D 997)
Very soon, prices of fodder rocket, providing the sisters with a staggering rise in their feed bill. This was a real and present problem for many horse owners. Pre-war, much grain for horse food had been imported and the dangers to shipping meant that Britain was thrown back on what it could grow for itself; and humans, farm animals and working horses came first. The picture below shows Snowball, a horse who delivered goods from the railway, in 1943. You can see how very underfed the horse looks: working horses had previously been allowed two nosebags of food while working but were now down to one.

© IWM (D 16841)

The difficulty of feeding horses is a theme throughout those books that dealt with the war. At the back of this was a real fear for the very survival of people’s horses. At the beginning of the war there had been wretched scenes of mass putting down of cats and dogs in order to preserve food stocks. This was not restricted to small animals. In its Winter, 1941 issue, the Editor of Riding published an appeal.
‘As we go to press we have received from the Minister of Agriculture an appeal which will go straight to the heart of every reader of RIDING. It asks all those who own horses and ponies “to consider seriously whether it is still necessary to keep them.” The Minister has in mind particularly those animals that are either too old for work or ‘that are ridden only occasionally for enjoyment.’ Deprived already of rationed feeding stuffs, many have been turned out to grass. Now the grass they eat in summer and the hay in winter, are both urgently needed for animals doing essential work.’
The piece goes on to make it plain that elderly animals should indeed be considered for equine heaven, and recommends that its readers make this difficult decision. Of riding animals it says:
‘…in deciding their fate it is not always easy to draw a line between necessity and desire, or even between immediate necessity and future necessity.’
The Minister had nothing against animals doing a useful job of work, but quite what was a useful job of work was open to interpretation.

Nevertheless, horses were kept going. The film below shows racehorses in Epsom during the war. There was no racing there during the war, but the horses were still trained and looked after. It's interesting that much of the work was done by youngsters.

The fodder situation lends particular poignancy to the situation in Joanna Cannan’s More Ponies for Jean, published in 1944 but based on events at the beginning of the war. As the Pullein-Thompson sisters recount in their autobiographical Fair Girls and Grey Horses, (1996), Joanna Cannan plundered an event in her daughters’ lives that either she or her husband, Captain Pullein-Thompson (the sisters' memory is unclear), had precipitated, as inspiration for her third Jean book. As the fodder shortage tightened its grip, the Pullein-Thompsons were told that either their ponies paid their way, or they would have to go. Quite where they would have to go is not made explicit, but the Pullein-Thompsons, and every other horse owner, knew the answer to that one.

They duly started a riding school, and put in a truly astonishing degree of hard physical work to keep their ponies fed. Joanna Cannan, as Josephine put it, ‘shamelessly collected copy from their experiences’ for the Jean book. Jean, like the Pullein-Thompsons, starts a riding school after she is also told one of her ponies must go now fodder is so expensive.

Not only did horse owners have to contend with the difficulty of feeding their horses, but also the belief expressed by some at the beginning of the war that horse and pony owning was a luxury The attitude that Primrose Cumming’s Josephine expresses, once she is safely back in England, was common:
“My dear, don’t you realise there is a war on? We can’t go on just the same, even if a few selfish people do try to pretend it makes no difference. Of course we’ll close the school down. What I really meant was what war work are you going to take up?”
This was an attitude the equine press was well aware of, and the appeal of the horse as refreshment and relief for those returning on leave was something they stressed. Primrose Cumming takes up the cry too: Virginia asks Josephine if she means that everything that caters for amusement and comfort; such as publishers and cinemas should be closed down so everyone is making ‘plain foods, woollen underwear and munitions?’ and Josephine's sister, Mary, suggests they keep going to keep up morale — they can do their bit by letting people home on leave ride at reduced rates. 

Even makers of riding wear stressed the restorative effects of war-time riding.
Silver Eagle does indeed find more clients: wives of men whose offices have been relocated from London, pupils from an evacuated girls’ school, and a pony to break to harness so its owner can cope with petrol rationing. Despite the privations of war, the riding school manages to survive, and the book ends on a note of hope, declaring ‘Nothing seems to be so dire that the Silver Eagle Riding School cannot survive it.’

Hopeful though the book’s end is, the closeness of death overhung it, even if it was rarely acknowledged. Experience of that real loss in pony books of the period is rare. The most overt experience of death I have found occurs in Alice Molony’s Lion’s Crouch (1944). Heroine Mary has a beloved bull terrier called Happysnapper, who loves to play fetch. 


The former harbour master, a Nazi sympathiser, plans to show the Luftwaffe the way to a Cornish airbase by lighting up an oil slick along the creek. The slick will be ignited by a timed bomb that is already floating along the river. This time, says the harbour master, who has tangled with Happysnapper before when the dog managed to catch something of his he wasn’t supposed to have, ‘Your dog will not win.’
‘Oh, but he will,’ I said, and thank God there was no time to hesitate. ‘Go on Snapper, fetch it. Good dog. Good-bye.’
The harbour master and his cronies are captured, but Happysnapper has paid the ultimate price.

And of course in Mary Treadgold’s We Couldn’t Leave Dinah (1941), probably the most nuanced portrayal of ponies and children during the war, the children lose their home, their ponies and everything they have ever known.

She took the same start point as many authors before and since: the golden beginnings of summer holidays, filled with the promise of ponies, gymkhanas and a summer with the pony club —ponies as a hobby; a glorious distraction during the holidays. Her heroine, Caroline Templeton, says:
'You couldn’t really believe in awful things like Hitler when you were out in sun and wind and sea-spray and with people as absolutely marvellous as the Pony Club.'
But Mary Treadgold was only too aware of what life on the Home Front meant: she wrote We Couldn’t Leave Dinah in a London air raid shelter.

And so Caroline’s glorious, sunlit world is shattered. She and her family have full-scale enemy occupation to contend with when their home, Clerinel, a fictional Channel Island, is invaded. Caroline tries hard to hang on to everything that the ponies symbolised: a lack of care, of having responsibility only for your pony and for enjoying yourself.

The Pony Club dream—the pony as hobby and distraction— fades utterly when Caroline and Mick are, in the confusion and panic of the evacuation, left behind. Mary Treadgold shows conventional pony owning as the luxury it is. The focus switches from ponies as the central point of a privileged existence, to them as working animals, a necessity, useful in getting done what has to be done.

In their time spent hiding on the island, the ponies are used to carry what Caroline and Mick need when they hide in a cave before being able to escape the island; and as transport―to move around the island more quickly when they are attempting to find out the Nazi’s true invasion plans. 

The ponies carry baggage - We Couldn't Leave Dinah
Both children quickly gain some perspective; despite the title, it is not the pony Dinah who is central to the story. Not only does Caroline accept the fact Dinah has to be left behind, she hands her over to the German girl, Nannerl, daughter of the German commander who has taken over the Templeton’s house. The ponies become, in fact, the way in which the Templetons and Nannerl connect. Their shared love of the horse is a common language, no matter who is the invader or the invaded. Nannerl does not see a daughter of the invaded, someone whom she must grind down, and hand over to her father: she sees a girl she would have liked to play with, and in the Pony Club, something she and Caroline could have done together. When Nannerl helps both Templetons escape, Caroline is able to take the extraordinary step of regarding Nannerl as more than just an enemy. She makes her an honorary member of the Pony Club. It’s a tiny thing, in the face of all that Nannerl is doing for them, but it moves beyond simple thanks, and beyond ideas of nationalism, to building a connection, with something that has no nation—the horse.

I would argue that the pony books published during World War II move beyond the depiction of the horse purely as a leisure animal, particularly now the ability of children to rescue horses from a hard working life and transport them to a happy, well-fed existence was severely limited. Pony books reflected the new reality of wartime, where leisure now took on meanings other than simple distraction, providing a much-need break from the everyday hardness and bleakness of war. The horse and pony were a distraction, but also a symbol of something that could unite people across classes and countries: something we all need, in whatever form it comes.


Friday, 5 August 2016

The pony book in World War II: distraction, hobby or necessity?

Last week I spoke at the Topsy-Turvy conference at Bristol. Its theme was children's book series, and hobbies. I spoke on the hobbies element, and how the advent of war changed the way horses and riding were portrayed in children's literature at the time. This is (pretty much; I've cut it a bit) the text of what I said. It's split into two parts. If you want to skip straight to part two, it's here.

Having a horse or pony is a complicated hobby. A horse is not like a stamp collection: something that you can put away in a drawer when you are bored with it. It demands a huge input of physical labour and attention (unless, of course, you have someone to do the work for you). And although now almost all horses are leisure animals, that was emphatically not the case before World War II, which itself changed the relationship of horse and man, reeling it back to a time when the horse was, for many, their only hope of transport and help with labour.

That is not a relationship that was necessarily shown in pre-war pony literature.  The pony book, which had always had those elements of distraction and escape common to much children’s literature, maintained that during the war. The very nature of leisure and what it meant was brought into much sharper perspective, even as some questioned whether leisure was appropriate at all during war. And for some, the horse was indeed a necessity in a way which it had not been before the war.

The pony on the cover is butcher's pony Jingo.
The pony is a rare saint.
In the pre-war period there were thousands of working horses, in towns and cities, and in the countryside. Horses hauled goods from railway goods yards. They ploughed fields and performed any number of other agricultural tasks. Seeing a horse would have been an everyday event even for the child who lived in the middle of the city. For the majority of children, this would have been the sum total of their equine experience, as opportunities for less wealthy children to ride were limited unless your family happened to own a horse for its business, such as Jingo, the pony who pulled the butcher’s cart in Primrose Cumming’s The Wednesday Pony (1939), or Miss Ada in Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet (1935), another butcher’s pony. But even then, you only got to ride when the pony was not needed for other things. The video below was shot for the RSPCA, and gives you a good idea of the variety of pre-war working horses and ponies.

Despite the efforts of Primrose Cumming, the everyday horse world where horses were central to the way things worked was not one that was generally reflected in the pre-war pony book. Riding as a hobby had become progressively more popular in the inter-war years: Golden Gorse, in her 1936 preface to her non-fiction The Young Rider, wrote that when the book was published in 1928:

‘At that time one frequently met people who said ‘What is the good of teaching children to ride, the days of the horse are over!’ No one would say that now. … Five children seem to be learning to ride today for one who was learning seven years ago.’

But those five children had enough money to keep horses and ponies as a hobby, and it was that world most pony books of the time portrayed, where the function of the horse was to amuse the human. If you have a mental picture of a pony book gymkhana, it probably looks a lot like the one in the next video.

If a pony did appear in a pony book pulling a cart, it was generally because it had fallen down the equine social scale and was in need of rescue and returning to its rightful place as a leisure animal.

That is not to say that the pony did not symbolise other things in the pre-war pony book. For Jean, heroine of Joanna Cannan’s A Pony for Jean, published in 1936, her pony Cavalier is to her a means of achieving self-confidence and marking her position in the world. She gains respect from her cousins, and indeed herself, for her achievements in turning Cavalier from a pony who is called The Toastrack because he is so thin to one who wins prizes at the local gymkhana.

A Pony for Jean
Cavalier is much more than just a hobby—looking after any pony involves hard physical work, and work that you generally have to keep up with, day in, and day out. The pony as a focus for meaningful work is something that Joanna Cannan is particularly keen on: doing all the work for your pony takes the pony beyond being the hobby of a leisured class into something that generates self-respect and independence.

The shift in focus that A Pony for Jean heralded, away from the pony biography to stories that focussed on the human characters was one that was maintained, and in some cases even emphasised, by the war.

When looking at books in the war period it is obvious that any analysis of the books that appeared is to some extent skewed by the fact that once war was declared, there were very rapid effects on writing and publishing. Authors and illustrators were called up, or did other war work that allowed little time for writing. Paper restrictions drastically reduced the amount available for printing. Books were physically destroyed in large numbers when the area around St Paul’s, in London, was destroyed in the Blitz.

But books were still both written and published. The pony-mad child could still access literature about ponies, some of which carried on galloping through the sunlit fields of the pony-filled idyll, and some of which met the war head on.

During 1939–1945, I am aware of 39 published pony stories. By pony stories I mean a book with substantial horse content whether the horse be a wild one who would never be ridden or a perfectly schooled gymkhana pony—pony book readers in my experience simply requiring the presence of the horse in some form rather than a specific plotline. Most of these books were, as you would expect, published in 1939. In that year, 12 books were published; in 1940, 9; in 1941, 4; in 1942 and 1943, one each; 8 in 1944 and in 1945, 4. As a comparison, from 1942–1945, Enid Blyton had over 80 titles published.

Of these horse stories, 10 were equine biographies, and 23 involved children and ponies, with the remaining titles being spread over matters as disparate as donkeys and a racing story. Of those books nine make some mention of the war: one, Kate Seredy’s The Singing Tree (1939) is about World War I, one (V E Bannisdale's Back to the Hills, 1940) mentions the war in a preface, and seven have World War II making some contribution towards the plot.

V E Bannisdale: Back to the Hills
Those statistics do not tell the whole story, particularly with regard to the equine biography, which was a notable victim of the war. Of the 10 equine biographies published, only two were published after 1940. Perhaps there was little appetite for a story that neither presented the pony as a fun-filled escape, nor one that met the war head on and described what many children were actually experiencing.  Perhaps books which relied for their plot on rescuing the pony from an ill-fed life pulling a cart were hopelessly out of touch with a wartime reality where fodder was scarce and many equines, however glamorous their pre-war lives, learned to pull carts.

A 1939 pony book with a pony in need of rescue
The equine biography only reappeared in in 1944 with Joanna Cannan’s Hamish, a Picture Puffin whose appearance is better explained in the context of the rise of that particular imprint than as a resurgence of the pony telling its own story.

There is, however, one interesting exception, Daphne Winstone’s Flame, which was published in 1945. Daphne was 12 when she wrote Flame, and was confined to bed for 18 months. To amuse herself, she wrote a story about a pony called Flame. Daphne does not ignore the war at all.

When war was declared, in 1939, Flame is in a riding school. Daphne describes the wireless being on, with every day the stablemen stand round listening to the news: ‘on everyone’s lips,’ she says, ‘is that one terrible word: WAR!’ By October, five of the horses have been sold, two grooms called up, and a stable boy has joined up. Bad feeding contributes to Flame’s sinking further into equine misery, but he is rescued in 1942, when his former owner, now a Pilot Officer, finds him when on leave.

Flame - frontis
There is of course no requirement that you mention contemporary political events, and several of the pony stories published in the period carried on as if war had not broken out. These books provided access to a world where problems were temporary and easily solved; where sheer enjoyment was allowed—a distraction, and an escape to a world where there was always hope.  Marjorie Mary Oliver’s Ponies and Caravans, published in 1941, takes its readers into a world where its characters, penned up in a smoky London suburb, long for the freedom of the countryside, which they duly get, with plenty of caravans and ponies. (There is of course an uncomfortable parallel here with the many evacuees who did get what Oliver’s characters longed for at the time, but for whom it was not a transformative experience).

MM Oliver's Ponies and Caravans
Some books perhaps were written as much for their authors’ benefit as their readers. For both John Ivester Lloyd, and Brian Fairfax-Lucy, I suspect that writing pony stories provided essential light relief. Their wartime books make no mention of the war at all. This is entirely understandable bearing in mind that both served in the war. John Ivester Lloyd served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and, as an acting Lieutenant-Commander, was awarded the DSC on 8th June 1945. His People of the Valley (1943) is a holiday story in which its teenage hero confounds a gang stealing farm livestock. Brian Fairfax-Lucy, who was wounded during World War I, and served as a Flight Lieutenant between 1940 and 1942, wrote Horses in the Valley (1941), a holiday story, and The Horse from India (1944), a racing adventure.