Dozens of friends and supporters helped War Horse Memorial establish National War Animal Day and secure it in the calendar. The Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Windsor and Maidenhead, along with other special guests, including Patrick, our miniature Shetland pony mascot and Britain’s Got Talent winner Colin Thackery, were in Ascot for this memorable event.
A Service was conducted by Fr. Darrell Hannah of All Saints Church, Ascot, in the shadow of Poppy our War Horse. He told guests who had gathered close to the area of reflection: “Today, on this the first National War Animal Day, we remember the tens of millions of animals who, over countless conflicts, have given service and sacrifice. From the horses, mules and donkeys who carried soldiers, munitions and the wounded. Dogs who hauled machine gun and supply carts, who served as messengers, often delivering their missives under a hail of fire. Cats brought to the trenches of Europe and Turkey as vermin-hunters but also as loved pets. And pigeons, often used as military messengers and, as technology progressed, photographers of enemy movement.
“The Imperial War Museum tell us that in all 15 types of animals served in the First World War alone. It’s impossible to measure the suffering they must have witnessed and the pain they must have endured. But their contribution led to the freedom we have enjoyed for over a hundred years. Animals have been there for us when we have needed them the most. It’s only fitting that we remember them in our prayers and with our thanks.”
An Act of Remembrance began with the Exhortation recited by Major Brian Rogers, followed by the Last Post, two minutes’ silence and Reveille, performed by Trumpet-Major Julian Sandford. The Kohima Epitaph was recited by Giles Stibbe OBE, Director in Charge of the Household Cavalry Foundation. The service concluded with the laying of wreaths at the foot of the Memorial.
A formal reception in Ascot Racecourse’s Old Paddock Suite, followed, which included an opening by The Mayor, Cllr John Story, followed by an update on the work of War Horse Memorial CIC and The Household Cavalry Foundation, along with the official launch of The Animal Purple Poppy Fund. Entertainment was provided by violinist, Linda Hannah and our special Ambassador and friend, Chelsea Pensioner Colin Thackery, who won the nations’ heart as a recent winner of Britain’s Got Talent.
We were delighted to see so many of our partnership charities represented, including Mane Chance, World Horse Welfare, The Donkey Breed Society, Blue Acre Horse Rescue and Family Nest Therapy CIC. We wish to especially mention artist, Jenna Fox, for sharing her wonderful giant poppy installations. Also our Ambassador, Michael Thompson, who kindly sponsored the event in memory of his beloved dog, Biff.
National War Animal Day recognises all animals who have given service and sacrifice. Poppy, our magnificent war horse, stands as a memorial; a reminder of the horses, mules and donkeys who lost their lives in the First World War. After gentle pressure from our army of volunteers and supporters, however, we decided the time had come to also remember other animals, including dogs, cats, pigeons, canaries and camels, involved in conflict over countless wars. The Imperial War Museum say that 16 million animals were used for transport, communication and companionship in WW1 alone.
It’s hard to imagine, but ponies even as small as Patrick would have been either sent to the Front, or used down coal mines to support the war effort. We think a national day where we remember them all is both fitting and overdue. The symbol for the day is the purple poppy and, despite coronavirus restrictions, thousands of pin badges and knitted poppies for people and animals to wear have been already sold by supporters and volunteers to help good causes.
War Animal Day will be remembered every August 23, but our Animal Purple Poppy Fund continues into the autumn. If you want to wear a badge or a knitted purple poppy to show your support, email Margaret at firstname.lastname@example.org