Animals At War

The last post that I did has had amazing viewing figures. You must all be animal lovers, Marley and Buddy did look great with their bandanas.

We have a dedicated building to cover the massive input that animals have had in wars. From WWI and WWII up to the present day. Most people know about pigeons, dogs and horses as they are the ones normally associated with wartime. But there are many other animals that have played their part, if only as mascots who gave a little bit of home comfort. We do not glorify war, but wish to make a tribute to the animals that gave, and still give to us, the greatest loyalty, and when needed the ultimate sacrifice. 

I think that possibly pigeons have saved the most lives during both world wars. In WWI they really were an essential form of communication with vast fields of pigeon coops on fields in France.

In WWII they still had important roles, so much so that a pigeon parachute was designed to enable them to be dropped out of planes at a specific site for the Resistance to quickly receive messages and send communications back to the UK. In WWII every heavy bomber plane that took off in the UK had a pigeon on board to fly back with the precise position if the plane had to ditch or crash land.

Such was the value placed on pigeons they were frequently shot by the Germans as the came, or went over the English Channel. If you were caught with a pigeon on occupied territory you were executed.

During WWI horses were in great demand and were taken from farms and private ownership to be used by the army for transportation of equipment and supplies. Vehicles couldn't manage the muddy terrain but the plucky horses and mules somehow managed. Often it would take up to 12 hours to clean a horse of mud. The Royal Army Veterinary Corps was always on hand to treat wounded horses and mules. In WWI in England elephants were sometimes used to plough fields in the absence of the horses that the farmer had lost to the war cause. In those days circuses had animals performing, but nobody went to a circus for entertainment during wartime so the animals were put to good use.

Dogs were used for many purposes. They were trained to take messages from trench to trench, some dogs had been trained to trail a new communication line to where it was needed. There were the Mercy dogs who found the wounded and dying on the battlefields and stayed with them until help arrived, giving the comfort of companionship to the scared soldiers. Some of these dogs carried a first aid kit in a satchel for wounded soldiers to treat their own wounds where possible. Just a few of the many roles they played.

Mascots had the most varied types of animals. They became a little reminder to the servicemen of home life, and a distraction to the horrors of war. In the trenches they often had stray dogs and cats that became companions. Ships had cats, not only did they give affection to the sailors, but more importantly they kept the rats and mice down on the ship where food supplies were so valuable. Some of the cats had little hammocks made for them by the sailors. A few more mascots included; donkeys, goats, pigs, a fox cub, a parrot and bears. At Whale Island in Portsmouth they even had a Polar Bear given as a mascot.

Animals truly played, and still play important roles in warfare. It is only now that their bravery and sacrifice has been properly acknowledged with monuments and books. Many have been awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery, the ultimate award for the animals. If you visit us have a look at this department and see how much we owe the animals.

A very realistic model of a German Shepherd R.A.F Police dog.

The reading corner with booklets telling a little more about animals in wartime.

The reading corner.  The parachute dogs are still used today, an amazing story.

The Dickin Medal display.

Horses in wartime.

Every inch is covered with photos and amazing stories of animals in wartime.


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