Grave Marker for Songster, the Oldest War Horse

Teachers' notes, activities and linked resources

Curriculum links:

KS2 History - WW1
KS2 English/Literacy - Writing
KS3 Citizenship - Dealing with Conflict; Human Rights - Animal Rights
KS3 History - WW1
KS3 English - Writing, Media/Non-fiction

Look at the images and read about Songster the War Horse on the previous page, then try some of these ideas for discussion and activities (the Related Links at the bottom of the page might help you):

How this resource could be used:

'This resource would be useful when asking children to empathise with events in history or used alongside a book unit, such as War Horse .' Joanne Karlson, Year 3 teacher and Lower KS2 phase leader.

Discussion ideas: 

  • What other tasks have horses been used for in the past? Why?
  • Do you think using horses in wartime or as transport in peacetime, for example is fair?
  • What is a trumpet call? Why is it called this? Why is it used?
  • (Relating to the novel War Horse) How does the story of Songster differ or resemble the presentation of horses in the novel?

KS2 History/Literacy

  • So many animals were killed during the war that it might have changed the way people think about animal welfare. Make a list of as many animal charities as you can and try to find out whether any famous celebrities support them.

  • Write two diary entries about a day in Songster's life as a horse involved in WW1. Write one from Songster's point of view, the other from the point of view of the soldier who looked after him.
  • Songster's memory lives on in the form of a new military vehicle used by the Royal Yeomanry, which has been named after him in the hope it will bring faithfulness and reliability to its new bearer (see Related Links at the bottom of the page). Make a list of all the similarities and differences between a horse and a vehicle when used in battle.

KS3 History/Citizenship/Literacy

  • The role of the cavalry was to charge enemy positions because they could advance a lot quicker than infantry troops. Write a letter home describing your part in a cavalry charge, but from the viewpoint of the horse. Include the sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield.

  • As well as making cavalry charges, horses were used to transport ammunition and supplies to the front, for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers, pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. Find out what other animals were used in WWI and what each of their roles were.

  • The inscription on the 'Animals in War Memorial' in London includes the words: ' They had no choice.' Discuss how much choice you think members of the armed forces had in WWI about what they did in the war. How much did this depend on what your background was (school, family etc)?

  • Write a persuasive argument or have a debate about whether horses should/should not have been sent to war.

  • Steven Spielberg's blockbuster film War Horse highlights the use of equestrian 'recruits' in the First World War. Find out what inspired Michael Morpurgo to write the original story. Then do some research to discover other famous stories involving animals and based on real life events.

  • Demand for horses was so high during WWI, that Britain imported them from Australia, Canada, the USA and Argentina, and also requisitioned them from ordinary British people. Then it was decided that no horses under 15.2 hands (60 inches, 152 cm) should be used in the war, at the request of many British children, who were concerned for the welfare of their pet ponies. What other examples are there of public opinion changing the minds of politicians or war commanders? You can include modern day campaigns as well as historical examples.


Artillery - weapons of war such as cannons, rocket launchers, shell-firing guns etc
Cavalry - soldiers who fight mounted on horseback
Equestrian - to do with horses
Reconnaissance - a trip to find information about the enemy
Requisitioned - taken away from the owners by the government
Yeomanry - units of the British Territorial Army (used to be cavalry regiments)

View other relevant My Learning WW1 resources or scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.

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