Anzac Day, April 25, is a day of remembrance honouring those who served and gave their lives during conflict. Animals have played important roles during wartime, this Anzac Day we have an opportunity to remember the loyalty and sacrifice of these service animals.
Animals have multiple uses during war, some have specific jobs and others help troops acting as mascots as well as providing comfort and friendship.
Army dogs helped troops by sniffing out enemies, explosives and track fallen soldiers. Dogs make excellent messengers and warned troops the enemy was approaching. As well as providing vital service to troops, dogs were also used for companionship and to boost morale among soldiers.
As well as providing companionship cats killed rats in trenches and on ships which would spread disease and eat vital supplies.
Horses and Donkeys
Horses and donkeys were used in battle and to carry packs of food and ammunition. In WWI more than 136,000 Australian horses were sent to war with only one returning home, Sandy, who is memorialised at the Australian War Memorial.
Mules and Camels
As they don’t need much water mules and camels were used to transport soldiers and equipment, traveling long distances in tough conditions.
Pigeons were the first animals to receive war medals. Communication was limited during war so carrier pigeons were used to deliver messages. Messages were written on thin pieces of paper and attached to the pigeons’ leg. Their success in reaching their destinations saving thousands of lives.
Other animals went to war with our troops as mascots including kangaroos and a rooster.
Communication and technology have come along way, however, animals still play a key part in wartime to this day. In keeping with tradition, animals are still getting the recognition they deserve for their service. For the highest bravery animals may be awarded a Dickin Medal, the animal equitant of the Victoria Cross.
Purple poppies commemorate the four-legged diggers that died during conflict. On Anzac Day a purple poppy can be worn alongside the traditional red poppy to remember both humans and animals that have and continue to serve.
Anzac Day is a day to remember all of our fallen heroes including the deeds and sacrifices of animals in war.
Lest we forget.