The entrance to Romsey memorial park is being re-designed and as part of that work the town felt it should acknowledge its strong association with the Remount Service.
In 1915 a Remount Camp was opened on Pauncefoot Hill to the west of Romsey with Ranvilles Farm house at its centre – it formed part of a series of camps with a major establishment based at Swaything near Southampton.
The role of the camp was to assemble and train horses for war. At any one time there were approximately 2100 men looking after up to 5000 horses and mules on the top of a hill over- looking a quiet Hampshire village -a far cry from the western front where many of these animals were to end there days alongside the brave soldiers fighting to free Europe from the tyranny of war.
The Romsey camp was divided into 10 squadrons each of which had their designated horses and mules to look after. The camp had its own veterinary hospital and there was a reception centre known as the Kraal, to the north of the camp where the horse were kept for a week or two after they arrived as they were usually extremely tired and often very frightened. Many of the horses from North America landed at Devonport dock yard in Plymouth and were met by the men of Romsey – they were often wild and unbroken and needed strong handling to avoid accidents ! The horses were then put on trains and bought back to Romsey where they were walked from the station through the town and up to Ranvilles Farm house and the depot.
When they had been broken and made safe for riding or pulling gun carriages and all other types of hard work they were taken to Southampton docks and shipped to France.
During the First World War the Remount Service bought 468,088 horses or 17% of the working horse population in Great Britain including Ireland. In addition 688,619 were bought from North America, of which 13,629 were unfortunately lost at sea before they reached Britain. Like men horses paid catastrophic price in the Great War.
Before it closed in 1919 up to 120,000 horses and mules had passed through the Romsey remount depot.