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  • Claire Jordan

For the Encouragement of Kindness to Animals

A bit of light relief after my last post about the Fete Fire.

In 1897, a group of London animal lovers set up Our Dumb Friends League (the phrase ‘Dumb Friends’ taken from a speech by Queen Victoria); they were concerned about the welfare of working horses on the streets of the capital and they were determined to promote the encouragement of kindness towards animals.

Three years later they bought their first horse ambulance for £500 and in 1901, they distributed horse sun hats to protect working animals out all day in the summer heat.

By 1906, they managed to open their first free hospital for animals in Victoria, London, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, and an establishment which has never closed its doors.

In 1912, the society launched the Blue Cross Fund to raise funds to help animals caught up in the Balkan War; just around the corner was the First World War, swallowing up tens of thousands of civilian horses and mules, along with dogs and pigeons.

The British public responded magnificently, raising the modern equivalent of £6.5 million through the War.

At the end of 1915, an Officer wrote to the Blue Cross Fund: “I heartily thank you for the liberal supplies of veterinary stores received this morning, every article was in splendid condition… Believe me your work is fully appreciated by everyone who has charge of the poor dumb animals doing their part in this great war.”

Between 1914 and 1918, the Fund treated more than 50 000 sick and injured horses and 18 000 dogs, in all theatres of War.

Little ones who wanted to help could join the Children’s Branch of Our Dumb Friends League; annual membership was 1d and proud members could wear this very lovely badge with pride.

The League still exists as Blue Cross (, and still does magnificent work for animals in need.

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