Apr 23, 2009

Anzac Dogs

G'day Dog Lovers,

With Anzac Day coming up I thought I'd pass on this message from RSPCA Qld. Sometimes we forget that war doesn't only involve humans...


As the Last Post sounds at cenotaphs around the country on ANZAC Day and crowds lower their heads to remember those lost in bloody and sometimes senseless battles, past and present, RSPCA Queensland asks that the silent soldiers who gave their lives for their countries, be included in this nation’s collective commemorations.

Animal ‘soldiers’, both two- and four-legged have made extraordinary contributions to conflicts across the globe have occupied a very special place among fighting forces for centuries.

“There are countless examples of the incredible courage, strength and valour animals have displayed on and off the battlefield,” said RSPCA Qld CEO Mark Townend. “In many cases, animals were an integral part of the strategic landscape of warfare.”

The most well known of these are the horses, camels, donkeys and mules which served as mounts and for transportation, hauling weaponry and artillery from one point to another as well as much-needed supplies for troops.

“These animals made an astonishing sacrifice – 100,000 horses travelled from Australia in World War I to serve with Australian and allied forces … just one made it back as the rest were all either killed in battle or euthanased before returning. And who could forget Simpson and his brave donkey?”

Carrier pigeons ensured the message always got through in World War II, saving countless lives and earning 31 Dicken Medals for bravery while German-trained Peregrine Falcons tried to stop them delivering their information.

Then there are the ‘para-dogs’ of World War One, and in perhaps their most enduring role, tracker dogs, exposing the enemy and their weapons. Eleven dogs served with the Australian army in Vietnam between 1967 and 1970. However, despite their enormous contribution, none returned to Australia. In recent years dogs have served in a host of international theatres of war including Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Somalia, Bougainville, East Timor and Afghanistan.

Animal mascots too have trodden the same path to war as their human counterparts with almost every battalion or ship having an animal companion. Many mascots have been credited with saving their mates’ lives through superior senses (like hearing) detecting incoming aircraft long before the humans in the camp. Navy cats accompanied ships for hundreds of years and were considered good luck charms.

“We can never condone their involvement in war. However ANZAC Day is a chance to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice made by countless thousands of men and beasts for the freedoms which we now enjoy, continued Mr Townend”

In recognition of this sacrifice, the Australian War Memorial, which has always promoted the intrinsic role of animals, has now produced a wonderful publication called ‘M is For Mates’ in conjunction with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Designed for young readers, the publication is a celebration of the role of animals highlighting the great debt our armed forced owe to so many creatures great and small.

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