Fritz: War Horse of the 15th

      In late 1918 the Canadian Corps was engaged in arguably its most successful operation of the war – The Hundred Days which saw them advance in a series of offensives from Amiens to Mons at the war’s conclusion. During the advance on the Drocourt-Queant Line in late August-early September, the 15th Battalion was tasked to assault and capture a formidable German strongpoint called ‘The Crow’s Nest’ at Hendecourt-les-Cagnicourt. It was the last and arguably the strongest of a series of forward German positions that barred the way to the D-Q Line. It had to be taken in order to clear the way and secure ‘jump-off’ positions for the main assault on the D-Q Line itself. In the early morning of 01 September the 15th Battalion assaulted The Crow’s Nest and held it against three determined German counterattacks. 
 
       Fritz’s story begins here in the hours following the capture of The Crow’s Nest. The Regimental history records the following:
“Shortly after nightfall, a German officer, returning from leave, came trotting down the road and trotted straight into the arms of Captain Winnifrith and No 4 Company, orderly and all. These ‘verdamnt’ Canadians!  Where was his battery? It had been on the Crow’s Nest. He, the commander of it, had been away some time and was unaware of the extent to which ground had been changing hands. He was mounted on a splendid dark bay – a typical cavalry mount which had been captured from the Russians in the east. When Lt-Col Bent returned, he adopted the horse…” 1
 
There is no mention of the horse again until after the war when the Battalion had returned to Belgium from their stint with the occupation force in Germany and was preparing for their return to Canada:
  “In March 1919 at Bas Oha, Belgium the Bn turned in its transport and horses in preparation for embarkation to England and then from there to Canada. “Lt-Col Bent was permitted however to retain Fritz, the German horse captured at The Crow’s Nest.’
So somewhere after The Crow’s Nest this Russian horse, who had become a German POW who had become a Canadian POW, had become the adopted mount of LCol Bent and been appropriately renamed ‘Fritz’.
 
Upon return to Canada and demobilization, LCol Bent returned home to his fruit farm in Nova Scotia and took Bruno and Fritz with him. The final Regimental history entry regarding Fritz states; “years later he was buried beside Bruno on the Colonels’s fruit farm near Kentville, N.S.”
 
      Until only recently, there were no known photographs of Fritz. In 2011 the 15th Battalion Memorial Project Team was able to locate surviving members of LCol Bent’s family who still lived on the family farm in Paradise, Nova Scotia. From an old trunk in the basement of one of his grandaughters, emerged many items that had belonged to LCol Bent. Among these treasures was the only known photograph of Fritz, the war horse of the 15th Battalion. It is a splendid photograph taken after the war in those apple orchards that shows LCol Bent astride Fritz with Bruno standing alongside. Additionally, very recent archival research at the 48th Highlanders museum in Toronto  uncovered two additionap wartime photographs of LtCol Bent and Fritz taken during the post war occupation of Germany.
LtCol Bent on Fritz during the 15th Battalions
Colours Parade in Engelskirchen, Germany 1919
LtCol Bent on Fritz with Maj J Girvan
Engelskirchen, Germany 1919
LtCol CE Bent, Fritz and Bruno. Paradise Nova Scotia