As we remember our service men and women this week for Anzac Day, we wanted to highlight the work, bravery and sacrifice of the many animals involved in Australian war efforts as well.
Animals have been integral to all Australian military experiences.
Military animals have always worked alongside humans, not only serving and protecting, but providing comfort, joy and hope when those were hard to come by.
The Australian military employed a variety of service animals, including camels, donkeys, mules, pigeons – even kangaroos – and of course, horses and dogs.
Animals had important working roles in the military, performing tasks were difficult, dangerous or sometimes just impossible for humans.
Animals could carry or pull heavy loads across terrain that may have been otherwise impassable or unreachable. This was a tremendous help for communication, transportation, mail and supply services.
Some of the most important jobs of our brave military animals include:
transportation of people, food, equipment and supplies
carrying messages, mail and telegrams
search and rescue
While all animals provided a dose of that special human/animal connection, some, including dogs but also kangaroos and cockatoos, were specifically brought along as pets or mascots. These animals provided a source of friendship, pleasure and company to the soldiers, deeply missing their families and homes.
Animal mascots were also used in military hospitals to bring joy and hope to injured and recovering soldiers.
The companionship, loyalty and unrelenting affection between wartime animals and the humans they worked with provided emotional relief from the hardship of war.
The Australian War Memorial has a beautiful exhibition dedicated to the animals of war, called ‘A is for Animals.’
The images in the exhibition show the integral value and beautiful partnership between serving animals and their humans. It extends well beyond work and tasks. The respect, affection and mateship is obvious.
An offshoot from the exhibition is the booklet ‘M is for Mates’ available from the Australian War Memorial site (download it here).
The book is an insight to the integral role of animals in Australian war experiences. It demonstrates the connection and support to those they served and is a record of their unwavering loyalty, bravery and intelligence.
Unfortunately, so many of these wonderful creatures lost their lives to war too.
As we remember our ANZACs, let’s also remember our war time animals. We are forever in their debt.