Furry war heroes
November 25, 2004 6:53 AM   Subscribe

The heroes who saved Britain. They died in millions, the victims of wars waged by man against his fellow man. In huge numbers, they were deployed alongside the military in the theatres of conflict, in the deserts, the seas and the sky. They carried troops, ferried supplies and even secrets. On the home front, they rescued victims trapped in the rubble of bombed buildings. Their names? Rifleman Kahn, Mary of Exeter, Buster, Simon, Olga, Regal, Upstart, and millions of others. This contribution has finally been acknowledged in London with a £1m memorial, dedicated to the animals who served in war. It is the first such permanent tribute to the plethora of species that served in the military; horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, bears, pigeons, mules, even the humble glow-worm. The sculpture was placed at Brook Gate, Park Lane. Among those present, Buster the Army dog, who served with honor in Iraq.
posted by matteo (16 comments total)
 
until now, heroic animals who served in the British Armed Forces were awarded the (unfortunately named) Dickin Medal, the "Victoria Cross" for animals.

for those interested in the role of animals in wartime, I suggest the tuly excellent book Animals in War

as The Independent (main link) points out, "The sheer numbers of animals to have died is staggering. Some eight million horses were killed by explosions, bullets, disease, exposure or starvation between 1914 and 1918."
again from the main link:
Yesterday, old soldiers came to remember the role played by animals in conflicts. Colonel John Andrews, an 80-year-old 14th Army veteran, paid tribute to the mules that supplied him in the jungle in Burma in 1944. "My life was saved by the mules. The only way we could get the guns up to us was using them. There was no way we could do anything else." Also present was the British Army dog Buster and his handler, credited with breaking a resistance cell in Safwan, Iraq, in 2003. The springer spaniel became the 60th animal to be awarded the Dickin Medal, given by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals since 1943.
posted by matteo at 6:59 AM on November 25, 2004


Fantastic. I remember watching a discovery channel doco about war dogs in Vietnam and how when the war was over the dogs had to stay while their masters were sent home. It was one of the most heart wrenching documentaries I've ever seen, listening to the former masters of these dogs talk of the unbelievable pain they felt when being forced to leave their best friend behind, and they spoke as if they really were best friends - not knowing what was to become of them, and never knowing whatever became of them. If I recall correctly, one of the masters refused to leave his dog behind and stayed in Vietnam, I could be wrong though.
posted by Jase_B at 7:57 AM on November 25, 2004


...heroic animals who served in the British Armed Forces...

We seem to be confusing "hero" and "victim."
posted by ba at 8:42 AM on November 25, 2004


That's some good stuff, thanks for the post. What is also sad is the fate of the war dogs in Vietnam who survived the battlefield.

This reminds of what I think was a rare political / current events sequence in Charles Schulz's Peanuts strip. Snoopy had to give a speech at a beagle convention and a riot broke out when people (dogs?) protested about the pooches not coming home from Vietnam.
posted by marxchivist at 9:09 AM on November 25, 2004


Fantastic and touching post. Thanks.
posted by wolftrouble at 9:44 AM on November 25, 2004


On behalf of all canines, I thank you. Dogs, like MeFites, find few things in life as satisfying as a good post.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:58 AM on November 25, 2004


Thanks for the great post.
posted by dazed_one at 2:31 PM on November 25, 2004


Both me and my lazy, spoiled English sheepdog thank you for this post:-)
posted by invisible ink at 3:02 PM on November 25, 2004


The best way to thank them is to not throw any more of them out in front of bullets.
posted by Vulpyne at 3:07 PM on November 25, 2004


So I guess it's only me that finds this 'memorial for animals' thing a tiny bit pathetic? I say this as an animal lover and a vegetarian, but for goodness sake, I feel this should be kept in perspective. They're spending a million quid plus to honour glow worms, while pensioners who struggled through those wars die of hypothermia because they can't afford to pay their gas bill. Hmmmm.

Just sayin'.
posted by MrMustard at 4:41 PM on November 25, 2004


Surely Buster the Army Dog served with honour...

/nitpick
posted by pompomtom at 4:55 PM on November 25, 2004


pompomtom: As the dog was a Brit, it was definitely honour.
posted by MrMustard at 4:59 PM on November 25, 2004


wooouf wooouf
posted by matteo at 5:00 PM on November 25, 2004


We seem to be confusing "hero" and "victim."
The best way to thank them is to not throw any more of them out in front of bullets.

my sentiments exactly.

They're spending a million quid plus to honour glow worms, while pensioners who struggled through those wars die of hypothermia because they can't afford to pay their gas bill. Hmmmm.

"hmmm" indeed. that's disgraceful.
posted by t r a c y at 5:01 PM on November 25, 2004


I was driving passed this the other day and although I'm sure they made a noble sacrifice it does look bloody silly.
posted by ninebelow at 2:38 AM on November 26, 2004


So am I really the only person who got the wrong idea upon reading the "Furry War Heroes" title for this thread?
posted by etoile at 8:29 PM on November 27, 2004


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