Remembering the furry friends who served with our soldiers
ANZAC day (25th April) is a special day for Australians. It's a day we remember and honour all the soldiers who fought wars to make our country what it is today.
They are brave, they are selfless, and they are heroes.
On a national day of remembrance, and as an animal lover, I felt it appropriate to pay tribute to the, often forget, furry heroes of war.
You may not have realised, but animals have played a considerable part in wartimes.
They've given soldiers comfort, been guards and mascots and even hunted enemies. And then there are our feathered friends who carried messages in times before mobile phones and CB radios!
And following on from the wartimes, animals continue to play a vital role for many returned soldiers. They offer loyal companionship and help to relieve stress when our soldiers are facing PTSD and related trauma.
The top 4 animals of all war stories
Dogs not only provided great company to soldiers during wartimes, but they were used as messengers, mascots, trackers and quite often, mine detectors. There are many beautiful stories of the dogs who served at war, so here a couple of the greatest:
Sarbi – An Australian Labrador Retriever Newfoundland who was trained in explosives detection. She served in Afghanistan in Operation Slipper, and her preserved remains can be found at the Australian War Memorial. She famously disappeared when her troop was ambushed and found a year later by an American soldier who knew about our missing dog and returned her to her trainers in Australia.
Horrie – This gorgeous Terrier pup was found starving in the Libyan desert in 1941. He became the Machine Gun Battalion mascot and was the best mate to thousands of Aussie Diggers. His sharp sense of sound detected Nazi aircraft before the troops could even see them! He'd let out his distinctive growl to warn the troops.
Stubby – This American Pit Bull Terrier is the most famous war dog and was given the rank of sergeant. Stubby participated in 17 battles and improved troop morale. His keen senses warned his unit of poison gas attacks, incoming fire and helped to locate his soldiers on the battlefield. He even sniffed out a German spy in the trenches!
Although cats didn't play a massive part in the war, they were often used as mascots, keeping troops morale high and giving them companionship. They were popular on warships as they kept the ship free of rodents.
3. Horses & Mules
Many people would associate horses and mules as war animals, carrying soldiers and pulling artillery and carts. The most famous story would have to be that of Simpson and his donkey. This pair was fearless on enemy lines, working as a team for the Australian Field Ambulance. Simpson would load injured soldiers onto the donkey, and they'd be transported back to the first aid station. The unarmed duo is reported to have saved over 300 men at Gallipoli. The donkey received the RSPCA's Purple Cross for heroism.
Carrier pigeons were vital for the troops when the radio connection failed. They would carry messages to and from the headquarters. You may not believe it, but 2 Australian pigeons were awarded the Dickin Medal in 1947 for serving in WWII. One heroic pigeon was sent out into a dangerous tropical storm to request a rescue boat. It braved gusting winds and torrential rains but managed to deliver the message. The soldiers, ammunition and valuable cargo were all saved.
Animals are heroes too and should be praised on ANZAC day
Animals don't always have to serve in wars to be heroes. There are many more stories of animals who've saved their humans in everyday situations. Like Fizo, the Australian Terrier snake-slayer who leapt from a balcony to protect 3 kids from being bitten.
Although he suffered several venomous bites, he was survived to receive the Purple Cross.
If you've got any heroic animal stories, I'd love for you to share them. Drop them in the comments below.