Home-town honour for founder of “war horse” charity Brooke

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Dorothy Brooke with an old war horse in Cairo.
Dorothy Brooke with an old war horse in Cairo. © Brooke

Animal welfare charity founder Dorothy Brooke has been honoured with a historical marker in the British city of Salisbury.

Brooke lived in the Wiltshire city with her husband, Brigadier Geoffrey Brooke, from 1939 to 1955.

Salisbury’s Civic Society commissions and erects blue plaques around the city to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person or event, serving as a historical marker.

The unveiling last month at Malmesbury House in The Close was attended by Michael Brooke, grandson of Geoffrey, and Dorothy’s granddaughters Ann and Sarah Searight.

Born in 1883, Dorothy was first married in 1905 to Lt.-Col. James Gerald Lamb Searight. They divorced in 1926, and she married again later that year, to 1924 British Olympic equestrian Major-General Geoffrey Brooke, a recognised horse expert and author.

The Brookes moved to Cairo in 1930. There, Dorothy was shocked to find a large number of British horses leading lives of toil and misery in the city having been abandoned at the end of World War 1. Overall, eight million horses, donkeys and mules died during the war but those who survived were often deemed too costly to send home.

Dorothy Brooke's Blue Plaque in the city of Salisbury.
Dorothy Brooke’s Blue Plaque in the city of Salisbury. © Brooke

In 1934, Dorothy founded The Old War Horse Memorial Hospital to give these animals a dignified and peaceful end to their lives. She continued to work for her charity up until her death in 1955, when she was buried in her adopted home of Cairo.

After his stepfather’s death in 1966, Major Philip Searight succeeded Geoffrey Brooke as Chairman. He guided the organisation through a period of expansion. Dorothy Brooke’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren have maintained a tradition of service to The Brooke. Ann Searight served as a Trustee from 1979 to 2011 and is an Honorary Vice-President.

Almost 90 years on from its inception, the charity is now known as Brooke, Action for Working Horses and Donkeys and operates across 10 countries, including Egypt where Dorothy’s legacy began. In 2019/20, the charity reached more than 1.5 million working horses, donkeys and mules across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

There are currently 25 plaques around the city, including ones for portrait painter George Beare Lord of the Flies novelist William Golding, former prime minister Sir Edward Heath, politicial William Pitt the Elder, and the chart-topping band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich.a historical markera historical marker

 

The unveiling at Malmesbury House in The Close was attended by Michael Brooke, grandson of Geoffrey, and Dorothy’s granddaughters Sarah and Ann Searight.
The unveiling at Malmesbury House in The Close was attended by Michael Brooke, grandson of Geoffrey, and Dorothy’s granddaughters Sarah Searight and Ann Searight, who is a Brooke Honorary Vice-President. © Brooke

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