Remembrance Day 2018: Animal Heroes

After the excitement, bangs and booms of Bonfire Night, the nation falls silent at 11 o’clock on the second Sunday of November and pauses to remember those who have fallen whilst serving their country.

As Remembrance Day is typically associated with the courageous soldiers who fought in the war, we feel it’s also important to give recognition to the brave, loyal animals who served alongside them. Historically, animals have been used as messengers, for detection, scouting and rescue, as beasts of burden and even on the front line. So, we wanted to share some stories about the courageous, four-legged heroes who have helped save many lives over the years…

The PDSA Dickin Medal

Engraved with the words ‘For Gallantry’ and ‘We Also Serve,’ the PDSA Dickin Medal is the highest honour any animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict. It acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war.

In total, the Dickin Medal has been awarded 71 times since 1943; to 34 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses and 1 cat. In 2014, a Honorary PDSA Dicken Medal was awarded to heroic WWI War Horse, Warrior, to honour all the animals lost in World War I.

Warrior arrived on the Western Front in August 1914, alongside General Jack Seely, and remained on the front line throughout the war. He was in action in the Battle of the Somme and showed gallantry and resilience above and beyond the call of duty, acting as an inspiration to the soldiers as they faced their greatest fears in battle. Warrior survived the war, although not without injuries, and returned home to the Isle of Wight in 1918 with the Seely family, where he lived out a long and happy retirement to the age of 33.

The Purple Poppy

The traditional red poppy has, for generations, been a sign of respect for people lost in military conflict. Since 2006, the purple poppy has been introduced to remember the millions of animals killed in human wars. Now it is a pin badge that commemorates all animal victims of human exploitation. It can be worn all year round – at special events or day to day.

Animal Hero Facts!

  • World War I soldiers brightened the trenches with glow-worms; this helped them illuminate the dark, muddy living and even helped with reading intelligence reports!
  • During World War I, the Ministry of Defence issued orders aimed at protecting them; intentionally killing or hurting a homing pigeon could land offenders in prison for six months. More than 16,000 homing pigeons were parachuted into Europe during World War II.
  • British Army Explosives search dogs now begin their training at just eight weeks old! The ‘Puppy Programme’ is run at the 110-year-old Defence Animal Centre (DAC), a 360 acre facility surrounded by green fields in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.
So, however you are spending your Remembrance Day this year, consider sparing a thought for the brave animals who helped to save so many lives… we know we will be!