Philip Hoare article

Guardian article.

The animal victims of the first world war are a stain on our conscience.

by Philip Hoare.

The below article by Philip Hoare was published in The Guardian this week.

The animal victims of the first world war are a stain on our conscience.

Sixteen million animals served between 1914-18, with a huge loss of life. Yet their indispensable role is largely ignored.

They are the truly forgotten dead. Sixteen million animals “served” in the first world war – and the RSPCA estimates that 484,143 horses, mules, camels and bullocks were killed in British service between 1914 and 1918.

Some died before they reached the western front: of 94,000 horses sent from North America in 1917, 2,700 drowned when their vessels were sunk by submarines. Trench dogs hunted for rats in the trenches. Others carried messages. The German army alone employed 30,000 dogs. In a canine echo of War Horse, dogs were recruited from animal shelters, and when that supply ran out, from the general public. “I have given my husband and my sons,” wrote one English woman, “and now that he too is required, I give my dog.”

In no man’s land, dogs did jobs humans could not, such as taking supplies to the wounded so that they could treat themselves; and “mercy dogs” would stay with dying soldiers to keep them company. Such stories bear witness to the loyalty of animals. Dick, a black retriever messenger dog, was wounded in action but recovered enough to resume his duties. He developed a limp, grew weaker, and had to be put down. A postmortem showed that he’d been working with a bullet lodged in his chest and a shell splinter close to his spine.

Other animals acted as canaries in the mine. One South African unit had a baboon called Jackie with sharp hearing, who would tug at men’s sleeves if he detected enemy advances. Slugs were used when it was discovered they would visibly demonstrate their discomfort in the presence of mustard gas in smaller quantities than humans could sense, allowing soldiers to don their gas masks in time.

See full article here – The Guardian

Philip Hoare article
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