War Memorial to all creatures great and small
In Park Lane, Mayfair, the Princess Royal unveiled the first permanent tribute to the horses, dogs, pigeons, elephants and others on whose skills the British have depended in times of conflict. Carrying the inscription “They had no choice”, the huge memorial, designed by David Backhouse, comprises a carved Portland stone wall alongside sculptures of two mules carrying battle equipment, a stallion and a dog.”
“We never said thank you to them. They died in their millions. They carried our food and our weapons and they were phenomenal,” ~ Jilly Cooper
Eight million horses are believed to have died in the First World War, most from exposure, disease or starvation while carrying men, ammunition and equipment. “In the First World War horses would neigh when they heard enemy fire but would do nothing when they heard their own fighters going overhead. It’s their sixth sense.”
Hundreds of thousands of “mile-a-minute” carrier pigeons delivered crucial dispatches from the front, many suffering bad injuries. Among them was the famed Mary of Exeter, who returned from one mission with a damaged wing and three shotgun pellets in her breast.
“In the Blitz, dogs used to wake up their owners and take them to the shelters when they heard the sirens,” added Miss Cooper. A seven-year-old Army springer spaniel, he broke a resistance cell in Safwan, southern Iraq, when he found a hidden cache of weapons. His presence honoured the sacrifice of the many dogs who ripped their paws raw sweeping minefields, helping to lay vital telegraph lines or sniffing out survivors. Some, like Rob the “Para-Dog” even made parachute jumps.
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