My Life with The


by John Sparks

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  Head Horseman 1906 -- 1956

Robert Daplyn started his career in 1906 as a horsekeeper at 26s per week. His job was general stable work and grooming. Those were the days when a pint of beer was 2 pence, liver was 6 pence, a pound, bloater were half penny each and milk was 1 penny a pint.
With in eighteen months he had become a sick horseman at 30s a week. Then, as now, there were four major illnesses of horses - lameness, treads, strangles and paratitus,

The bombing of London during in the war made it necessary to have shifts of stablemen with the horses day and night, and the soundness of the policy was shown when the great incendiary raid on London took place on the night of December 29th 1940. The stables were set alight, but with the help of volunteers from the Brewery shelters in Chiswell Street, all the horses were led out to safety in the streets .

   Mr Daplyn recalls the heroes of the stables and how the Whitbread horses were saved

  Courageous volunteers

  On one of the heaviest nights of the blitz on London 29th December 1940

" I was in charge of the horses at the time and was living on the premises, " he writes, I had with me Mr Williams, the Deputy Foreman, who also lived on the company premises, and Mr F Gray, the senior Horseman. The stablemen had not gone home, and the fire watchers had come on duty, together with the fire watchers from the Wheelwright's department. We also had a number of volunteers, including clerks from the Delivery Department, which was courageous of them, as they were not used to handling horses.

" We had halters and blinker bridles on all the horses, and the men were briefed, and stood by incase we had to get them out.

   Building Ablaze

" The buildings on the west side of Golden Lane were ablaze, including the school in Hatfield Street, which was being used as a fire station. Helped by a west wind, the flames swept across Golden Lane, and we prepared to get out. The only trouble we had was in the top stable ( the stables being on three floors ). The sawdust on the top ride was a light , and Williams, Gray and myself had to blindfold the horses and get them down one at a time.

" When the buildings adjoining the stables caught fire we decided to leave, and all the horses were led out in an orderly manner, with a steady horse and a good horseman in the lead. We went to the south side of the Brewery in Chiswell Street, fixed a rope under the arches, and tied all the horses to it. Eventually, fire broke out on that side, and we moved over to the north side and tied up the horses along the stage, facing the delivery office.

" Meanwhile Williams, who was one of the Brewery auxiliary firemen, took some men back to the stables to see what the position was, while I stayed with the horses and the rest of the men. A considerable time later the gate on the north side caught alight and we moved back towards the stables, with the idea of tying the horses to the iron railings outside St. Luke's church in Old Street. We found, however, that it was all clear at the stables and all the horses went back to their proper place. None was injured, although three or four were singed.

I hope you will place on record the efforts of our splendid helpers, who were out all night among blazing buildings, flying embers, incendiary bombs and restive horses, and then carried on with their normal duties without a murmur . "

The Volunteers who took part in the horse rescue were Messrs, Peter Evans, Jim Brown, Fred Bailey, Charles Baker, Bill Lovelock, John McCarthy, Mr Lucas, Jock Berry and George Bidgood.

Below : Robert Daplyn and Billy Whitbread

Robert Daplyn
RFD with Billy Whitbread
Robert Daplyn