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We'll Never Forget Them

by Ruth Elizabeth Stiff 23 days ago in veteran

The Animals Who Served

If you are an animal lover, like myself, you have probably been thinking about the animals who have (and still do) served with our brave soldiers during the Two World Wars (and the wars that are being fought today). The red poppy is for the human soldiers. The purple poppy is for the animal soldiers. We are proud to wear both!

Animals have been, and still are, a crucial ‘addition’ to any war effort. The parts these loyal creatures have played (and still play) have literally saved thousands of lives. Horses, donkeys, mules and camels carried food, water, ammunition as well as medical supplies, and even today, with the trucks and lorries we have, these brave animals are still needed to access areas the trucks and lorries cannot get to. Dogs and pigeons carried messages to and from the front lines during the Two World Wars, and are still used today, even with the latest technology. Canaries detected the deadly poisonous gases, whilst cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches (during World War One).

During World War One, whilst dogs and pigeons were used, horses and mules were the animals that were most associated with this War. The reason is because many of the World War One pictures show horses and mules in the backgrounds.

During this War, pigeons were one of the few means of communication, and with their speed and ability to fly at great heights, they were the perfect animals to be used. Their homing instincts meant that pigeons were extremely reliable and capable. Soldiers would carry their lofts and the pigeons on their backs during the War. Tens of thousands of pigeons were used to send messages between the military detachments. It was a fact that the British Defence of the Realm Act made it a crime to kill, wound or not take adequate care of pigeons, showing how important these animals were to the War effort.

Dogs were also used as messengers during World War One. They also served in other ways. Their keen sense of smell found wounded soldiers on the battlefields and in the trenches. Their excellent hearing allowed these loyal dogs to act as really effective guards and scouts, detecting the enemy. These dogs proved that they are man’s best friend by providing essential comfort and companionship during the most distressing times. These dogs learnt calls, drills and salutes, and some were awarded medals for their bravery, even becoming mascots for the soldiers in the trenches.

Horses and mules were crucial to World War One! These faithful animals were used to pull pieces of artillery, as supply trains, as well as carrying other materials and supplies. They served as transport for the thousands of soldiers and were members of cavalry units. These animals were key to saving the soldiers lives. There is a plaque dedicated to these animals, which states: “The army horses and mules proved of inestimable value in prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. They were found in all the theaters of preparation and operation doing their silent but faithful work without the faculty of hoping for any reward or compensation”. (The U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum)

Slugs were vital to saving thousands of our soldiers' lives. They could detect mustard gas well before humans. The slugs would visibly indicate their detection of the gas by closing their breathing pores and compressing their bodies. The soldiers would see this and immediately put their gas masks on. They were called “The Slug Brigade”.

Today, even with our advanced technology, animals are still trained and used during war. Elephants are used in one army in the world, for carrying and pulling. Cats were used as spies during the Cold War in the 1960’s. Dolphins are trained by the U.S. Navy as part of its Marine Mammal Program. These sea creatures are trained to search for and ‘mark’ the location of undersea mines, either floating from an anchor or buried in the seafloor. One reason dolphins are used is because their sonar (echolocation) is so precise. Sea Lions and Beluga Whales are trained to work alongside armed forces divers to guard naval base access points, and even ward off intruders. These sea creatures are also trained to search for missing equipment.

This may seem controversial, to use innocent animals, training them and using them during war. However, like humans, these creatures won’t do anything they don’t want to do. As the rest of the plaque says: “What they suffered is beyond words to describe”.


Ruth Elizabeth Stiff

I love all things Earthy and Self-Help

History is one of my favourite subjects and I love to write short fiction

Research is so interesting for me too

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Ruth Elizabeth Stiff
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