24 Feb 2019

Purple Poppy service honours soldier and war animals

11:57 am on 24 February 2019

A service to mark Purple Poppy Day and honour First World War soldier Thomas Hartnell-Stone will take place in Canterbury this afternoon.

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Photo: Supplied

Every year on 24 February, Purple Poppy Day pays tribute to the millions of horses, donkeys, mules, dogs and pigeons lost during World War 1.

Mr Hartnell-Stone, a lover of horses, was a sergeant-major in the Mounted Rifles and served in Gallipoli around 1917. He was later tasked with destroying the horses left in Egypt at the end of the campaign, including his own, which could not be returned to New Zealand due to quarantine laws.

Only four of the estimated 10,000 horses New Zealand sent to World War 1 were brought back.

The service has been organised by his family members, as well as New Zealand Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust, a charity group that works to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress injury.

It will take place at a high country working farm, Washpen Falls, near Windwhistle, which New Zealand Mounted Rifles Charitable Trust president Mark Appleton said is the home Mr Hartnell- Stone dreamed of returning to.

Mr Appleton said members of the mounted rifles trust attending the service would proudly salute in honour of Mr Hartnell- Stone.

A Purple Poppy Day service will also be held in Waiouru in the North Island.