During the First World War, the Hall played an important part in raising funds for animals injured in the conflict, alongside the The Blue Cross charity (originally know as Our Dumb Friends League), which was founded in 1897. By the end of the war, the funds raised had treated over 50,000 horses alone.
This beautiful cover for the Grand Christmas Fair, in aid of our Dumb Friends League, held at the Hall on 29 November 1916, was designed by perhaps Britain’s most well-known and well-loved illustrator of the time, Mabel Lucie Attwell:
The Grand Christmas Fair was the second event held at the Hall for the Blue Cross, the first being a Special Sunday Concert on 28 May 1916 which brought together performers from allied countries including Australia, Belgium and Russia. The suffering of the horses wounded was traumatic for the soldiers, often even a single bullet could not be spared to put them out of their misery; the concert included this very emotive poem from a cavalry charger:
And I’m dying as fast as I can
(for my body is riddled with bullets –
They’ve potted both me and my man):
And, though I’ve no words to express it,
I’m trying this message to tell
To kind folks who work for the Red Cross –
Oh please help the Blue one as well!”
Grand Christmas Fair, in aid of our Dumb Friends League was the most high profile of the Blue Cross events during this time, attended by HRH Queen Alexandra and opened by Princess Arthur of Connaught. The High Society ladies of London (including Lady Byron and Lady Churchill) decorated the Hall’s Stalls with highly desirable items including as orchids, antiques, blouses and cushions, which were sold to raise money.
This October, Michael Morpurgo will tell world-famous moving story of War Horse’s Joey at the Royal Albert Hall, a horse sent to join the cavalry ranks during World War I. Joey would have been one of hundreds of thousands of horses that suffered in the severe conditions of the war, which the Royal Albert Hall supported through partnership with the Blue Cross since 1916.
There will be a collection on behalf of the Blue Cross at this concert, so please contribute if you’re attending to help support one of Britain’s oldest animal welfare charities.
War Horse, Michael Morpurgo’s moving narrative of the life of a young soldier and horse on the Western Front will be retold at the Royal Albert Hall by Morpurgo himself, accompanied by illustrator Rae Smith and music from London Voices and Tim van Eyken, original songman from the National Theatre’s production of War Horse. Book Now