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Animals In The First World War


Review of the book Animals In The First World War by Neil R Storey

Animals in the First World War provides a fascinating insight into the various animals that worked alongside our troops and those that were kept as pets to increase morale. It is full of historical photographs from the Great War displaying their work. Other notable images include enlistment posters such as those for the Army Remount Department.

Historian and author Neil R Storey begins with a general history of animals used during battles and wars. He describes that the first recorded animal distinguished in battle was the horse Bucephalus, the warhorse of Alexander the Great, who despite injuries carried him from the Battle of Hydaspes in 326BC.

Of relevance to readers of this website are examples such as assistant surgeon William Brydon's horse who helped his owner to the gates of Jalalabad from the retreat of Kabul in 1842 during the First Afghan War. This was depicted in the famous painting Remnants of an Army.

There are other medical and nursing references throughout Animals in the First World War and one of which we learnt here for the first time was the use of ambulance dogs of the British Red Cross. These were trained and used to seek out battlefield casualties and were especially useful in detecting those buried by debris. Another example is the fledgling crow that fell from its nest and was nursed by wounded soldiers at Sheffield Base Hospital in 1916.

We were moved to read about Jack, the pet of British nurse Edith Cavell. She was shot by the Germans by firing squad in October 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape from German occupied Belgium. Locals feared being branded sympathisers if they took in her dog and it became ill from neglect and stress. Fortunately the Dowager Duchess of Croy took him in and nursed him so well that he lived into the 1920s. Other moving stories include the dog who followed his master one month after his posting to the front line in France and not only managed to cross the channel but track him down in the trenches and the pet kitten that was found asleep on a dead infantryman's chest after he was killed in action.

The formation of the Army Veterinary Service and the Army Veterinary School in Aldershot is detailed alongside the history of the Army Veterinary Corps. The author also describes the interventions of organisations such as the Blue Cross ODFL (Our Dumb Friends League) and the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and their work during the Great War.

A chapter looks at animal mascots of the Forces and interestingly starts with a pig rescued at sea after the German light cruiser Dresden was sunk. It was rescued by a sailor from HMS Glasgow, named Tirpitz, and became their mascot! It also records the first regimental mascot of the British Army as being a goat from the Welsh Fusiliers from the American War of Independence and in later years a bear mascot that was the inspiration for the Winnie the Pooh books.

There are also pictures and descriptions of animals at the Home-front such as the St Bernard with a collection box on his back for the British Red Cross Society.

Its main focus is on the valuable work of a range of animals such as mules, horses and camels in various terrains and how they helped win the war through moved equipment and providing transport. Carrier pigeons also feature in a variety of work such as those trained by the Emergency Pigeon Service to fly from minesweepers with information about newly laid minefields.

This book gains much merit for its large amount of pictures, photos and images that greatly enhances the interesting subject matter. It would make ideal reading material for those with an interest in WWI and our animal friends.

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Burnt Vengeance


Burnt Vengeance - How will a dying patient in a hospice take his revenge? What are his final wishes and what will his solicitor reveal when she reads out his Last Will and Testament?


5-star author C.G. Buswell brings another story from his dark, tempestuous mind. Burnt Vengeance will have you screaming for the light and grappling with your imagination as you try to quell your fear.







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Forces War Records

Forces War Records are a genealogy site where you can find military records of over 6 million British Armed Forces personnel cross matched with over 4000 Regiments, Bases and Ships. This link includes a free search and a special discount of 40% off membership offer for visitors who use the discount code AF40 if they decide to become a member.
Search Now. A unique feature is their WW1 Soldiers Medical Records section.







If you would like to contribute to this page, suggest changes or inclusions to this website or would like to send me a photograph then please e-mail me.



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