Voices from the Past


Beauty and Jack with Riddiford’s Batman April 1917 Flanders


The plight of the majority of horses in World War I was a sad chapter in our history. Owing in part to veterinary objections to the return of horses from disease infested countries, it was decided to dispose of New Zealand’s transport and mounted horses where they were when the war ended.

Most men found this difficult and one man, 9/1623 Captain Richard ‘Dick’ Riddiford, a farmer from Masterton, felt he would get his horse ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Beauty’ (for short) back to England and pay (from his own pocket) the costs to quarantine his horse for a lengthy period.

Captain Richard ‘Dick’ Riddiford

Beauty had been with Captain Riddiford in France and Belgium for a good part of the war. ‘Dick’ Riddiford was an excellent soldier and had been awarded the Military Cross (MC) for gallantry during an attack (although wounded) on enemy trenches in 1916; an OBE for his outstanding leadership and “exceptional ability” when he was attached to Divisional Headquarters in 1918; and was Mentioned in Despatches twice for action at Flers in 1916 and in November 1918.
Determined not to leave Beauty in the UK, after quarantine, the big charger was placed on a ship in 1920 and was transported back to New Zealand. Captain Riddiford would not be so lucky. After the war, he was Aide-de-Camp to General Officer Commanding, New Zealand Division (Major General Sir Andrew Russell) and on his way back from Paris, he contracted the Spanish flu while crossing the Channel, and on 11 February 1919, he died of pneumonia after a brief illness and was buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey.
Beauty made it back to New Zealand and was met by Richard’s sister and settled at “Westella” in Feilding, where it was ridden for 4 years until old age took its toll.