The day Billy the horse became a hero

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Billie the White Horse, saviour of the 1923 FA Cup Final.
Billie the White Horse, saviour of the 1923 FA Cup Final.

A new listing in the latest edition of Britain’s Oxford Dictionary of National Biography recognises the heroic deeds of arguably the most famous horse to serve London’s Metropolitan Police.

Billy had been listed as a reserve on that day in 1923, when Wembley Stadium was to play host to its first FA Cup football final.

A huge crowd, estimated at 250,000, turned up, and began to swell the stadium. The crowd then invaded the pitch in their thousands before the scheduled kickoff.

The game hung in the balance until the mounts of the Metropolitan Police strode into the throng and began edging the crowd back from the pitch.

The images taken on that day are now among the most enduring in British football history. The grey coat of Billy stood out starkly in the black-and-white images and newsreels taken that day.

Now, Billy’s historics are recorded in the latest edition of the well known Oxford publication, under the listing for his rider, policeman George Scorey.

Scorey is among more than 40 Londoners added to the biographical dictionary.

Until recently, little was known of Scorey, who was born in 1882 and died 1965.

Billy at work with colleagues at the 1923 FA Cup Final.
Billy at work with colleagues at the 1923 FA Cup Final.

Scorey had joined the army in 1898, and served in the South Africa War and throughout  World War I.

In 1919 he joined the mounted branch of the Metropolitan Police and was issued with horse number 62. It was Billy, then a seven-year old grey.

On the day of the final, Scorey had been held in reserve, but was called into action as huge crowds poured into the stadium.

Scorey was one of 10 mounted officers who pushed the crowds back, allowing the game to begin at 4pm.

Scorey emerged as the day’s key figure, showing, with his mount, great leadership.

After that day, Scorey kept a low profile, refusing invitations to appear in public.

He described his actions as “routine procedure” in “unusual conditions”, and, not being a fan of the game, declined free tickets to each subsequent Wembley finals.

Billy died in 1930, and Sir Percy Laurie, head of the Mounted Branch, presented Scorey with one of his hooves, polished and mounted.

Following the May 2012 update, 108 new biographies have been added to the dictionary. It now includes 53,168 articles in which are told the life stories of 58,202 people. In all, 10,946 biographies include a portrait image of the subject. The Dictionary has been written by 13,660 authors.

Billy stands out in black and white pictures of the day.
Billy stands out in black and white pictures of the day.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who have shaped all walks of British life from the Romans to the 21st century. The dictionary is updated three times a year with new biographies. It is freely available in public libraries across Britain. Public libraries offer ‘remote access’, allowing library members to log-in and read the dictionary online — at home or anywhere — at any time.

 

Billy helps push the crowd back.
Billy helps push the crowd back.
Wembley Stadium station with White Horse Bridge built across it
Wembley Stadium station with White Horse Bridge built across it.

 

 

 

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