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Gravestone of Blackie the war horse

A Grade II Listed Building in Halewood, Knowsley

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Coordinates

Latitude: 53.357 / 53°21'25"N

Longitude: -2.821 / 2°49'15"W

OS Eastings: 345454

OS Northings: 384770

OS Grid: SJ454847

Mapcode National: GBR 8YRM.1B

Mapcode Global: WH87H.MWWB

Plus Code: 9C5V954H+QJ

Entry Name: Gravestone of Blackie the war horse

Listing Date: 9 August 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1436263

Location: Halewood, Knowsley, L26

County: Knowsley

Civil Parish: Halewood

Built-Up Area: Liverpool

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Merseyside

Summary


Gravestone to Blackie the war horse who served during the First World War, c1942. Sandstone

Description

Gravestone to Blackie the war horse who served during the First World War, c1942. Sandstone.

LOCATION: the gravestone is located in an overgrown area in the far north-west corner of a field on the western side of the site and is accessed via a linear grassy walkway alongside the northern edge of the field boundary.

DESCRIPTION: the gravestone is constructed of sandstone and has a triangular head with steps to each end. The inscription reads: 'BLACK HORSE/ ''BLACKIE''/ AGED 35 YEARS/ A BATTERY 275TH BRIGADE R.F.A. 55TH DIVISION/ FRANCE AND FLANDERS 1915-1918/ AT THE LIVERPOOL HORSES' REST/ 1930-1942'. The grave has been covered by modern artificial turf and is surrounded by a modern low ornamental white picket fence.

This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 27 October 2017.

History

Blackie was a horse that served with the 275th Brigade Royal Field Artillery 'A' Battery - 55th West Lancashire Division during the First World War, alongside his master Lieutenant Leonard Comer Wall. Wall was born in West Kirby, Wirral in 1896 and was educated at Clifton College, Bristol where he was still studying at the outbreak of the First World War. He obtained a commission with the 275th Brigade Royal Field Artillery 'A' Battery - 55th West Lancashire Division during the early days of the war and was posted to the Western Front on 9 September 1915. Details of Blackie's early life are not known, although he is believed to have been born c1905.

Lieutenant Wall was a wartime poet who composed a number of poems during his active service on the Front. One of his poems known as 'The Rose of Lancaster', which was written in Flanders in April 1917, included the line 'We win or die who wear the Rose of Lancaster'. The line was adopted later in 1917 as the motto of the 55th West Lancashire Division and encircles the divisional sign. Metal discs were also produced bearing the crest of the division and the poetic line, which were placed on the graves of those in the division killed during the war. The motto is also carved on the monument to the 55th Division in the Grade I-listed Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ, Liverpool.

In Lieutenant Wall's will he requested that if he did not survive the war that his faithful horse Blackie be buried with his medals or decorations. Lieutenant Wall was killed in action at Ypres whilst riding Blackie on 9 June 1917 at the age of 20. He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge in the Belgian province of West Flanders and his gravestone is inscribed with the line from his poem. He is also commemorated on a memorial plaque inside the Grade II-listed St Bridget's Church, West Kirby, and also on the Grade II*-listed Hoylake and West Kirby war memorial, which stands on the top of Grange Hill. Blackie received severe shrapnel injuries in the same incident, but remained in service on the Front for the rest of the war, and by the end of the war he had taken part in the battles of Arras, Somme, Ypres and Cambrai. He retained the marks of his shrapnel wounds until his death. Driver Francis Frank Wilkinson was Blackie's groom. He was killed in action on 8 June 1917 at the age of 23 and is also buried at Lijssenthoek.

After the war Lieutenant Wall's mother Kate bought Blackie from the Army and lent him to the Territorial Riding School in Liverpool. In 1930 he was 'pensioned off' and retired to live at the Horses' Rest in Halewood where he remained until his death at the age of 37 in December 1942. It is understood that Blackie used to lead Liverpool's May Day Horse Parade along with another ex war-horse known as Billy, and was adorned with his master's medals. Blackie's death received press coverage across Britain, from the local Liverpool Daily Post to the Gloucester Citizen, Portsmouth Evening News, and Dundee Evening Telegraph. He was buried in the north-west corner of the western field fronting Higher Road with his master's medals and a gravestone was erected. The gravestone has been cleaned in recent years making the inscription legible again.

Reasons for Listing

The gravestone of Blackie the war horse is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:
* Blackie's close association with his master, the wartime poet Leonard Comer Wall, and the fact that Blackie is buried with his master's medals, reflects the strong bonds shared between thousands of soldiers and their horses on the western front.

* It has strong cultural and historic significance in representing the key role animals played, and the sacrifices they made, in the First World War;

* It is a rare memorial commemorating an individual animal that served in, and survived, the major battles of the First World War;

Architectural interest:
* Its modest yet elegant design bears similarities to those in military cemeteries, whilst the inscription recording Blackie's name, regiment, and place and date of death reads like those ascribed to human soldiers.

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