Please spare her
Three children write a desperate letter to the Secretary of State for War
The first letter in the following exchange was written on this day in 1914 and can be found in the book, Letters of Note: War. The audio, featuring readings by the immensely talented Ivy Byng, Nathaniel Byng, and Mark Strong, is taken from the Letters of Note: War audiobook. Huge thanks to all three for lending their voices.
It was by no means just humans who were called up for service during World War I. In fact, over the course of the four year conflict, more than 16 million animals—including horses (for transport), dogs (for companionship and security), pigeons (to deliver messages), canaries (to detect gas), and cats (to catch rats in the trenches)—also went to war, a huge number made possible thanks to the inclusion of animals from private households, many across the UK. Unsurprisingly, not all citizens gave up their beloved pets without a fight. On 11th August 1914, two months after the war began, three distraught children from Wigan in England wrote to the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener, and begged him not to take their pony, a photo of which was included. To their astonishment, a reply soon arrived from Kitchener’s private secretary, who had a message to pass on.
The Hewletts to Lord Kitchener
August 11th 1914
Dear good Lord Kitchener,
We are writing for our pony, which we are very afraid may be taken for your army. Please spare her. Daddy says she is going to be a mother early next year and is 17 years old. It would break our hearts to let her go. We have given 2 others and 3 of our family are now fighting for you in the Navy. Mother and all will do anything for you but do please let us keep old Betty, and send official word quickly before anyone comes.
Your troubled little Britishers,
P., L. and Freda Hewlett
The War Office to the Hewletts
Lord Kitchener asks me to say in reply to your letter of the 11th August, that if you will show the enclosed note to anyone who comes to ask about your pony, he thinks it will be left to you quite safely.
“F. M. Lord Kitchener has decided that no horses under 15 hands shall be requisitioned belonging to the British family: P., L. and Freda Hewlett.”
The Hewletts to Lord Kitchener
To our good Lord Kitchener.
You are indeed kind to allow us to keep our dear old Betty. We met every post and hardly dared to hope you, who have so much to do, had had time to read our request—so little to you—so much to us. Thank you ever and ever so much. We have your photo and will never forget your kindness and hope to do each and all ‘our little’ for you and all the brave men who are working for and fighting for dear old England and all of us.
Always and ever your grateful British servants,
Poppy, Lionel and Freda Hewlett and also Betty.
God save Lord Kitchener and the King.
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