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A brief history of RAVC

The Army Veterinary Service was founded in 1796 by public demand, outraged that more Army horses were being lost by ignorance and poor farriery than at the hands of the enemy.

The Army Veterinary Service was founded in 1796 by public demand, outraged that more Army horses were being lost by ignorance and poor farriery than at the hands of the enemy.

Parliamentary debate and media attention obliged the Committee of General Officers to take positive action and the Army Veterinary Service was born 'to improve the practice of Farriery in the Corps of Cavalry'.

Primarily concerned with horses for the first 150 years the Army Veterinary and Remount Service (amalgamated in 1942) became responsible in 1946 for managing the Army's dog resources.

The Army Veterinary Service was founded at a time when the veterinary profession itself was in its infancy. The London Veterinary School was but two years old and its graduates were, in many ways, on a voyage of discovery, particularly if they took a commission.

The formation of the Army Veterinary Department in 1880 placed most veterinary officers under the Department's professional direction and the Army Veterinary Service now had some teeth - although not a full set since the veterinary officer remained firmly under the control of the regiment. However, a major step forward was the creation of the Army Veterinary School at Aldershot in 1880.

The establishment of this School, the original buildings of which remain in use by the RAVC today, had an immeasurable impact on the care and management of military horses.

The AVC was well tested in WWI. There were 2.5 million admissions mainly on the Western Front and 80% of injured animals were treated and returned to duty.

It was during WW2 that the Corps developed its interest in the use of dogs for military purposes - this was to ensure its post-war viability. In 1942 the RAVC became responsible for the procurement of dogs for all service agencies, to avoid the duplication that had arisen between the Services in the acquisition of dogs.

The years since 1946 have been active for the RAVC with Corps representation in some form in nearly every theatre of operation. Dogs are an invaluable aid to ground troops in jungle warfare as was demonstrated in the Malayan campaign against the Communist terrorists and again in Borneo against the Indonesian invasion.

Although the commitment of Corps resources to horses is now limited to support for the ceremonial units, the basic skills of pack transport have been kept alive at Melton Mowbray since 1976 when the last remaining Pack Transport Troop, located in Hong Kong, disbanded.

Although there is unlikely ever be a significantly large requirement for equines in future military operations, there are scenarios where ground conditions, (in situations where stealth is required or helicopters are not available for example), could make pack transport a vital solution to the need.

For over two hundred years since John Shipp first joined, the Army Veterinary Service has been a positive influence in the development of good practice in the care and use of animals for military purposes. The prime aim in founding the Service in 1796 was to ensure that Service animals were properly cared for in order that their fitness for duty was maximised.

That fundamental principle is as good today as it was then and sits well with the present military philosophy of cost effective efficiency, something that the RAVC is well acquainted with.

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