War Horse: Key Quotations by Theme

Key quotations for Michel Morpurgo’s War Horse broken down into key themes  to support independent learning.

Horses in War
Chapter 5

“The thunder and dust and the roar of men’s voices in my ears took a hold of me and held me at a pitch of exhilaration had never before experienced”

“A Horse hasn’t got no evil in him ‘cepting any that’s put there by men”


Chapter 8

“Horses reared and screamed in an agony of fear and pain”

“A few horses were still struggling on the wire, but one by one they were put out of their misery by the advancing German infantry”


Chapter 9

“They are not circus animals, they are heroes, do you understand, heroes, and they should be treated as such”

“When noble creatures such as these are forced to become beasts of burden, the world has gone mad”

“They saved good lives today, those two – good German lives and good English lives. They deserve the best of care.”


Chapter 11

“But the return to the peaceful life of a farm horse could not last long, but in the middle of that war.”

“I shall be taking your horses with us…They look fine, strong animals and they will learn quickly.”

“I must have the horses. The army needs them”


Chapter 12

“A thin wiry horse called Coco”

“He had the nastiest temper of any horse I had ever met”

“It was the giant Heinie who showed the first signs of weakness. The cold sinking mud and the lack of proper fodder through that appalling winter began to shrink his massive frame and reduced him within months to a poor skinny-looking creature.”

“There was not a horse in the team that was not walking lame”

“Heinie went that way one morning, and we passed him lying in the mud, a collapsed wreck of a horse; and so eventually did Coco”

“It was a piteous and terrible sight to see a fellow creature with whom I had pulled for so long, discarded and forgotten in a ditch”

Context and Futility of War
Chapter 5

“Endless tedious hours”


Chapter 6

“There was all about us on the ship an air of great exuberance and expectancy. The Soldiers were buoyant with optimism, as if they were embarking on some great military picnic”

“But the moment we docked the mood changed…the soldiers fell silent and sombre as we walked past unending lines of wounded waiting to board the ship back to England.”

“The wounded were everywhere – on stretchers, on crutches, on open ambulances, and etched on every man was the look of wretched misery and pain.”

“For the first time the men saw for themselves the kind of war they were going into and there was not a single man in the squadron who seemed prepared for it.”

“We were already hardened to living out”

“Every hour of the march brought us nearer to the distant thunder of the guns and at night now the horizon would be bright with orange flashes from one end to the other.”

“The growing crescendo of the big guns sent tremors of fear along my back and broke my sleep into a succession of jagged nightmares.”

“The fury and violence of the thunder”

“No one, it appeared, really knew where the enemy was.”

“I longed for home”


Chapter 7

“Both man and horse were contestant soaked to the skin”

“There was a winter to survive”

“We saw cheery soldiers smiling under their tin hats as they marched off to the front line, whistling and singing and joking as they went, as we watched the remnants struggling back haggard and silent under their dripping capes in the rain.”

“a night of incessant heavy barrage”

“The guns bellowed out their fury and the ground shook beneath us”

“Desolation and destruction were everywhere. Not a building was left intact. Not a blad of grass grew in the torn and ravaged soil.”

“We moved in ominous silence”

“into the wilderness of no man’s land, into a wilderness of wire and shell holes and the terrible little of war”


Chapter 8

“Eerie silence of no man’s land”

“A hideous roll of barbed wire that stretched out along the horizon as far as the eye could see”

“Oh God, Joey, they said the wire would be gone, they said the guns would deal with the wire. Oh my God!”

“The bedlam of battle had begun”

“All around me men cried and fell to the ground, horses reared and screamed in an agony of fear and pain.”

“His prayers turned soon to curses as he saw the carnage around him.”

“Maybe now they’ll understand that you can’t send horses into wire and machine-guns. Maybe now they’ll think again”


Chapter 9

“There are men, brave men, German and English lying out there”

“The world has gone quite mad”

“That’s what this war is all about, my friend. It’s about which of us is the madder”


Chapter 10

“In the middle of a nightmare”

“The front line which in spite of almost continuous offensives and counter-offensives moved only a matter of a few hundred yards in either direction.”

“Just seventeen  and he doesn’t even have a grave”


Chapter 11

“Their faces were strange and harsh and there was a new alarm and urgency in their eyes”


Chapter 12

“The lines of wounded seemed interminable now and the countryside was laid to waste for miles behind the trenches”

“We were back amongst the fearful noise and stench of battle, hauling our gun through the mud, urged on and sometimes whipped on by men who displayed little care or interest I our welfare just so long as we got the guns where they had to go.”

“It was not that they were cruel men but just that they seemed to be driven now by a fearful compulsion that left no room and no time for pleasantness or consideration either for each other or for us.”

“The battles seemed more furious and prolonged”

“We were permanently sore and permanently cold. We ended every day covered in a layer of cold, dripping much that seemed to seep through and chill us to the bones.”

“The effects of continual exposure, under-feeding and hard work were now apparent in all of us”

“The mud was killing us one by one, the mud, the lack of shelter and the lack of food.”


“Everyone says the war’s going to be over quite soon – I know we’ve been saying that for a long time, but I feel it in my bones this time.”

“But the war did not end”

“Even the news that the war was finally ending brought no light back to his eyes”

Bonds of Friendship
Chapter 3

“It was then that I fully realised I was being abandoned and I began to neigh, a high-pitched cry of pain and anxiety that shrieked out through the village”

“Kind hands tried to contain me and to console me, but I was inconsolable”

“If Joey does with you, I go. I want to join up and stay with him” “I’ll do anything, anything”


Chapter 5

“I had loved the aching days of ploughing and harrowing alongside Zoey, but that was because there had been a bond between us of true and devotation.”


Chapter 6

“I found that Topthorn was always by me and would breathe his courage into me to support me”

“On the march, Topthorn and I walked always together side by side”


Chapter 8

“As they walked away, Captain Stewart ahas his arm around Trooper Warren’s shoulder”


Chapter 12

[Golden Haflingers]

“Topthorn and I came to love them dearly. In their turn they looked up to us for support and friendship and we gave both willingly.”

Common Humanity
Chapter 6

“Captain Nicholls walked by my head turning his eyes out to sea so that no one should notice the tears in them.”

“As I was to learn, there were few enough such good men in the world”

[Trooper Warren] “He was the gentlest of men. He was meticulous and kind in his grooming and attended at once to my frequent and painful saddle sores” “He did not want to join up”

“Over the next few months it was his loving attention that was to keep me alive”


Chapter 8

“Same as us Trooper,’ said Captain Stewart. ‘They’re prisoners of war just as we are.”


Chapter 9

[Joey and Topthorn now on the German side]

“They are not circus animals, they are heroes, do you understand, heroes, and they should be treated as such”

“Within a few minutes Topthorn and I were being lavished with all manner of clumsy kindness”

“We are the same on both sides”

“There are men, brave men, German and English lying out there on stretchers in the trenches”

“The German officer, shaking his head, ‘the world has gone quite mad”

“I had seen the same grey faces looking out from under their helmets somewhere before. All that was different were the uniforms.”

“They saved good lives today, those two – good German lives and good English lives. They deserve the best of care.”


Chapter 10

“Thank you, my friend’ he said. ‘I never thought they would get us out of that hell-hole. I found this yesterday and thought about keeping it for myself, but I know where it belongs.’ And he reached up and hung a muddied ribbon around my neck. There was an Iron Cross dangling on the end of it.”

“He’s a good enough doctor even if he’s German”


Chapter 12

“Even the most hard-hearted of the gunners seemed disturbed as our condition worsened”


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