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Blackburn soldier, the real war horse hero
AS the film War Horse beguiles cinema audiences, Looking Back today tells the story of a Blackburn soldier who actually trained the animals for First World War battles.
Trooper Tom Leeming Robinson, joined the Horse Cavalry, 6 Dragoon Guards, in 1916, when he was just 18.
His brother Christopher, who was a year younger, joined up at the same time and they were stationed at Cavalry Barracks in Canterbury.
Before the war Tom was an apprentice draughtsman and engineer, working at Lancashire Boilers in Eanam and at Northrop Mill alongside Christopher.
Together, they invented a device for cutting cloth, which was attached to a loom.
A model was at one time on display at Blackburn’s textile museum.
The family lived in May Street; but when Tom married Alice, the couple moved to a new housing estate at Feniscowles and then to back to the Queen’s Park area, to Ripon Street.
They had five children and it is the youngest, Ken, who still lives in Blackburn, who has told his father’s story.
As a training recruit Tom had to ride bareback and swim in the sea, holding his horse’s mane, to harden his raw and bleeding inner thighs and toughen the skin on his legs.
He was proud to gain his spurs, which Ken still has at home nearly a century on, as it was akin to a pilot gaining his wings.
The cavalry used to train new horses from Ireland and other places, then ferry them to France, returning to England with veteran equines.
During the Great War, Tom was involved in horse training, transportation and ceremonial duties.
He was once stationed at Chelsea Barracks and assigned to cavalry escort duties to the king for three months.
Said Ken: “Dad was extremely attached to his own stallion called Danny and was proud to have served as a horse soldier.
“I used to go and see westerns with him as a child just so that he could take in the horsemanship of actors such as John Wayne and Randolph Scott.
“His great love of horses always remained with him.”
In the thirties, Tom and Alice moved to Altrincham, so he could further his career in engineering.
Ex-Trooper Robinson lost his two eldest sons in the Second World War, who both served with RAF Bomber Command, and he joined the Home Guard.