28    Aug 20141 comment

WWI: Unknown animal heroes

When we speak of war heroes, we generally refer to the brave men and women who fought and died for their country. Yet, many animals were on the frontlines with the soldiers. These heroic animals transported equipment, sent secret notes and informed of enemy movements.

Horses carrying ammunition at the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Horses were used for transporting food, artillery, equipment and to carry wounded soldiers. Eight million horses from all sides of the war died during WWI.

Dogs were taught to give warning signs when they sensed strangers. Scout dogs were sent to the frontlines to find the enemy, while casualty dogs went into the trenches to find the wounded and deliver medical equipment.

The mascot of the trench. Image credit: museedelagrandeguerre.eu

Some 100,000 carrier pigeons were messengers during the war. Records indicate they delivered 95% of their messages correctly. One pigeon, Cher Ami, received a medal from the American government for bravery during WWI when its messages saved the lives of nearly 200 soldiers. Pigeons - with attached cameras - were also used to take photos of enemy troop positions.

Carrier pigeons sent messages or took photos

Not only were dogs, horses and pigeons used to help on the front-lines. Some other interesting animals also joined the war effort. Glow-worms were used as lights in the trenches to make sure soldiers could see intelligence reports and letters without having to risk their lives to go up for light. In France, South African soldiers took along Jackie the Baboon who warned the allies of enemy movement.

Do you have any unique family history stories of animals helping during the war? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. My grandfather Jenkins trained teams of horses to pull caissons during WW1.

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