Topic: The Topsy Brush

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The story of Topsy the British shire horse sent to serve with the Royal Artillery.

Our family’s tangible link to the Great War.The brush made from Topsy's Mane and Tail..

This clothes brush was made from hair from the mane and tail of Topsy a Shire horse mare who was sent to serve with the Royal Artillery for the last year or so of the war.  After the Armistice Winston Churchill as Secretary of state for war formulated a plan to repatriate twelve thousand British horses a week, but with shortages of ships and destruction of infrastructure less than sixty two thousand horses of well over a million British horses sent to France and Belgium were brought home. Topsy was one of the lucky ones and was bought from the war assets board by my great uncle Philip Rundle and used as a cart horse to start his rural freight delivery business. The hair in the brush came from the first time great uncle Philip groomed her. Great uncle Philip had been a police constable in London but suffered burst eardrums in the Zepplin raids in September 1915 and in 1916 was invalided out of the police force.  By the mid 1920s motor transport had made his business uneconomic and Topsy was given to Philip’s nephew William Froode as a farm horse. In 1946 as a nine year old I saw Topsy on uncle Will’s farm at Bantham, retired and with her own stable and paddock to come and go as she pleased, I remembered being overawed by her sheer size and too frightened to go near her but she and my dad were old friends and just pleased to see each other, Dad said later he could still see the scars made by barbed wire across her chest. In 1952 after we had moved to New Zealand Dad got a cable the only message he ever got from Uncle Will.

                       Topsy died buried in the higher field. Will.

Topsy lived to be close to forty years old and died as a hero should, retired living with a family who looked on her as just another family member.      

By P. Rundle  

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