Angus Stovold & Harry Davis
A Real War Story in Surrey
There are few people who aren’t at least vaguely familiar with Michael Morpurgo’s tale of Joey the war horse. And right here in Surrey the Stovold family have a touching tale of their own which resonates with with Morpurgo’s story.
Farm worker Harry Davis first started work on the Stovold farm in 1906, and went on to win the Royal Agricultural Society’s Gold Medal awarded for 50 years service on the same farm fwith the same employer. Indeed even now, Angus Stovold can remember Harry working the land on his farm. Even into his seventies, he was still going strong – and eventually he was able to add not one, but two bars to his medal for 60 and then 70 years service!
But it is the story of Harry and his team of ploughing horses, Duke and Daisy that still warms the hearts of the Stovold family.
Harry was just 14 when he left school and joined the farm. He decided he wasn’t cut out for managing cattle and after a year, he asked to work with horses. He teamed up with Duke and Daisy and won his first ploughing match at Shackleford in 1907. He went on to win the Surrey County ploughing match five years running. But then war broke out…
In his memoirs, Harry wrote: “You want to know what happened to my horses, Duke and Daisy? Well, it was the strangest thing. A few days after the war broke out in August 1914, the army requisitioned them and six other horses. It was a sad day. We were left with only ten so I decided to go into the army. It was soon after getting out to France that I met Duke and Daisy again, in the retreat from Mons. We were losing a hell of a lot of horses with mud fever. I was riding as an outrider with a gun team when I asked the sergeant to stop a minute because I thought I could recognise two horses coming down the road. I wasn’t mistaken, how could I be? They were Duke and Daisy in good condition and they recognised me all right. They were terrible days for horses, standing in thick mud, never under cover – just like us. I was made an NCO, drove a gun team, collected a bullet and was sent home.”
After the war, Harry went back to work on the Stovold farm. Born in 1892, Harry passed away at Elm Tree Cottage in Shackleford on 11th February, 1977. He was 84.