Royal Army Veterinary Corps celebrates 100 years

The Royal Army Veterinary Corps, together with its animal charges, has exercised its Freedom of the Melton Mowbray, parading through the town to mark the centenary of being awarded the Royal Warrant, bestowed on the Corps by King George V. 

Hundreds of people lined the streets to show their support as the soldiers celebrated the milestone and cemented the RAVC’s strong bond with the town and borough.

Over 200 officers and soldiers including a mounted contingent and working dogs from  the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment based at St George’s Barracks, North Luffenham took part, led by the Chief Veterinary Officer, Lt Col Neil Smith.

The salute was taken by the Colonel Commandant of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Major General Roly Walker and music was provided by the Bands of the Royal Signals and the Army Medical Services. 

Members of the RAVC Association and the Melton Branch of The Royal British Legion also joined the marching troops.

Mayor Pru Chandler from Melton Borough Council said: “The RAVC has played a huge part in local life in Melton Mowbray for many years and we are extremely honoured to celebrate their centenary.  Many of our families in the borough have friends and relatives who have seen active service, so it is our privilege to recognise the work of our local military personnel who risk their lives to serve our country.”

The Corps sees Melton Mowbray as its home. Lieutenant Colonel Martyn Thompson

Lieutenant Colonel Martyn Thompson, the Commanding Officer of the Defence Animal Training Regiment based in Melton Mowbray said: “On behalf of the RAVC I would like to thank the people of Melton Mowbray and the wider community for their ongoing support. 

“The Corps sees Melton Mowbray as its home. Whilst the RAVC has been based here formally since 1946, the British Army and its animals have been associated with the town since 1905 when the Army Remount Services purchased a stud farm and 400 acres of grazing land. The link between the town and the military remains as strong as ever.’’

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I am extremely honoured to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. When you hear of the work that these animals do in the fields of combat, you can’t help but feel the upmost admiration – not just for them but for their handlers and all those that care for them during their service.

“This parade cements the strong ties between the Corps and Melton Mowbray.”

The event also marked the renaming of the Defence Animal Training Regiment base, known locally as the Defence Animal Centre, to Remount Barracks.

History of the Corps

Until the end of C18th there was no veterinary service in the British Army, and the treatment of Army horses was the responsibility of those contracted to shoe and supply medicines for them. Heavy losses of horses during campaigns in the late C18th, parliamentary debate and media attention forced the Committee of General Officers to agree to the formation of a military veterinary service in 1796.

On 27 November 1918 King George V conferred the Royal prefix to the Corps in recognition of its work. In a letter of congratulations, the Quartermaster General wrote, ‘The Corps, by its initiative and scientific methods, has placed military veterinary organisation on a higher plane. The high standard which it has maintained at home and throughout all theatres has resulted in … an increased mobility of mounted units and a mitigation of animal suffering un-approached in any previous military operation.’

Did you know:

  • It is estimated about 16 million animals served in WWI, including horses, mules, camels, dogs and pigeons.
  • Of the 2.5 million injured animals treated by the Army Veterinary Corps during WWI, over 85 per cent returned to duty.
  • Today there are around 500 horses and 900 dogs serving in the British Army.
  • The Royal Army Veterinary Corps plays a vital role in Defence, working primarily in handling, training and caring for military dogs and horses.
  • A veterinary officer in the RAVC has a dual role in looking after animals and being in command of soldiers.
  • A veterinary technician supports the veterinary officer keeping the animals healthy, taking care of equipment and nursing any military animals that are in hospital.
  • Dog handlers travel all over the world with their military working dogs. Specialised training leads to detection of explosives and arms, as well as illegal drugs.