Posted on June 13th 2014
I wrote Cairo in the War: 1939-1945 almost thirty years ago, and getting a presentation together on such a complicated subject is taking up far more time than expected – although I’d forgotten how many good stories I managed to cram into the book.
Then two nights ago, I sat next to someone who is involved with the Brooke Hospital for Animals. I don’t know why, but it came as a huge boost to morale to know that this organization, that looks after the mules and donkeys of North Africa and the Middle East and helps the families that own them, is still going strong.
The Hospital was started by Dorothy Brooke, the wife of a British Army Officer who was posted to Cairo in 1930. She was appalled by the misery of the donkeys she saw in the streets and started a free equine hospital, where the carters of the city could come and get medicine for their animals for free, and advice on how look after them. The worst and most pathetic of these wrecks she bought from their owners and put into comfortable retirement; or, if they were beyond saving, out of their misery. She had an especially soft spot for the old war horses, who had been brought out to Egypt during the First World War and sold off locally when hostilities ended. Overworked and underfed, they had passed down the scale of owners till they were scarcely recognisable except for their huge frames, and the arrow brand on their flanks.
To see how the work goes on, take a look at www.thebrooke.org.