Is Princess Louise Park in Sussex named for a British Royal or a horse? I’ve heard both answers. The person was daughter of Queen Victoria and patron of the 8th Hussars Regiment. The horse was the 8th Hussars Regimental Mascot.
Princess Louise, the horse, was an Italian-born WWII refugee. She later was naturalized as a Canadian citizen, made a Freewoman of the Village of Hampton and a member of the Canadian Legion #28 Hampton Branch.
A foal found wounded beside her dead mother in Coriano, Italy, Princess Louise was rescued by 8th Hussars men from the Hampton and Sussex area. She then traveled with them for the rest of the war – to France, Belgium and Holland. It took considerable ingenuity to pull that off.
When the men moved by ship to France, they were not allowed to take animals. So they modified a truck that was being transported, building a stall behind a false wall in it. Two of them went AWOL for a short period of time during loading. Afterwards, the charges were quietly dropped. Perhaps the machinations went quite a way up the chain of command?
8th Hussars Regimental Mascot
Princess Louise and the regiment were in Holland at the end of the war. When it came time for the men to come home, they couldn’t bring her back on the troopship.* They left her with the British Army Veterinary Corps, asking them to get her on a ship as soon as possible.
She arrived in New York a few months later. From there, she went by train to Saint John where she was given the keys to the city. She then traveled in style to Camp Sussex in the town of Sussex and served there for 27 years as Regimental Mascot. Her duties included representing the regiment in Remembrance Day services and most civic events in Sussex. She greeted officials and was a favourite in parades around the province. H. Thad Stevens was her first handler and Sgt. Gordon Bickerton took over care of her and her daughter.
Princess Louise gave birth to three foals. After she died in 1973, a daughter named Princess Louise 2 served as mascot until her own death in 1981 at the age of 27.
Princess Louise’s horseshoes, framed, hang in the Hampton Legion. Also there is her application for Legion membership. Her hoofprint is on it, and beside “number of dependants” is typed “3420 (total Regt’l enlistment)”.
Her story was written by LCol. R. S. McLeod. You can read it here. A children’s book about her, The Pony Princess, was published by the Hampton Legion, written by Ana Dearborn-Watts. It was given to area school libraries. The President of the Hampton Legion told me that usually every Remembrance Day “somebody writes something about her.” Indeed a story this lovely, of horses and men, should not be lost to us.
*US WWII veteran Bill Wynne, in his book Yorkie Doodle Dandy, tells how he successfully smuggled Smoky, his Yorkshire Terrier, back. He laments, however, that others were not so lucky with their adopted dogs, monkeys and other pets. But he doesn’t mention any serviceman trying to sneak a horse on board!