5 Animal Heroes Of The First And Second World War
When we remember the two World Wars, we probably give little thought to the animals that also lost their lives, and they are often referred to as the “Forgotten Heroes.”
However, since World War II there’s been a huge desire to recognise the roles animals played in the conflict. Millions of animal lost their lives in the two wars, and there is even a purple poppy that can be worn alongside the red poppy to remember the animals that died. So here we look at five animals who were recognised for the roles they played in World War I and II.
Judy was born in Shanghai, China in 1936, she was a purebred liver and white pointer. Judy, or Shudi as she was originally called was chosen to be the Ship’s mascot for HMS Gnat. Soon the crew started treating her like a pet. Judy quickly learnt to hear the approach of hostile Japanese aircraft long before any human could, and would alert the crew.
During her time at sea Judy had many mishaps, she fell overboard and had to be rescued, she got lost and ended up on another ship, she fell pregnant; she also had a gun pointed at her by Japanese soldiers.
Throughout her time at sea, her constant companion was Frank Williams. In 1939 Judy was transferred to HMS Grasshopper, where initially she suffered terrible sea sickness.
In 1942 while docked in Singapore, HMS Grasshopper was ordered to head for Singkep Island in the Dutch East Indies, on route, Judy alerted the crew to Japanese aircraft approaching. Grasshopper was hit, and the crew had to abandon ship, they ended up on an uninhabited island.
Lack of water was becoming an issue to the crew, but one day Judy started digging and unearthed a freshwater spring, she is credited with saving the men’s lives. After being rescued from the island, the survivors and Judy were taken as prisoners of war.
The men endured 3-4 years of the most horrific labour, torture, starvation and every degradation the Japanese could inflict on them. While in prison Judy protected the men, and she became the only animal officially registered as a prisoner of war. In June 1944 the men were moved to Singapore on SS Van Warwyck.
Williams managed to smuggle Judy on board, teaching her to stay quiet. The ship was torpedoed, and over 500 passengers did not survive, but somehow Williams did, but there was no news of Judy. However, when he heard stories of a dog helping to rescue people from the stricken ship, he knew it was her. Eventually, they were reunited in London when the war ended.
Judy was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal version of the VC. Her citation reads “For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped maintain morale among fellow prisoners and also saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness” Judy died in 1950, and she is buried in Tanzania, Africa.
In 2006 her collar and medal went on public display in the Imperial War Museum in London.
4 Cher Ami
During the first world war, messages were sent using carrier pigeons; there were no radios in the trenches, and it was proved this was the best way to carry messages from the front line to HQ. The Germans became so rattled by this that they took hawks to the front line in a bid to halt the birds.
Here is the story of one brave little pigeon named Cher Ami.
In 1918, US soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division were trapped behind enemy lines when they came under fire from both sides near the Argonne Forest in north-east France; they were being picked off one by one under heavy fire from the Germans and the British.
In a desperate attempt to let their fellow soldiers know their position, they sent three messenger pigeons to HQ; it was their only hope of survival. Two of the three were killed at once. The third was also hit, she was blinded in one eye, with a gaping chest wound and her leg hanging by a single tendon, but this brave little pigeon struggled on for a further 25 miles and delivered the message before collapsing.
Her actions meant allied bombardment ceased at once, and surviving members of 77th Infantry Division were rescued. Astonishingly Cher Ami saved the lives of 194 men. Remarkably she survived her battle wounds and even had a wooden leg carved for her, but sadly she died a year after her heroic feat.
Cher Ami was awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal. She is now stuffed and on display at the Smithsonian Museum.
The tale of War Horse has gone from a children’s bedtime story to a successful stage play, then on to be a Hollywood movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Despite popular belief Warhorse’s heroism was fictional. So here we look at a true-life war horse hero.
Warrior carried General Jack Seely of the Canadian cavalry throughout the horrors of World War I. Warrior was born on the Isle of Wight in the UK, and was first partnered with Seely at the battle of Mons.
Seely was amazed by the bravery of his horse, and they fought countless battles together. The horses’ loyalty to General Seely was so strong he would follow his master around like a dog.
Warrior survived several near-death experiences, he was almost killed by a sniper, and the stable he was housed in was hit by a bomb, but he miraculously scrambled out of the rubble. Warrior became known as “The Horse the Germans Could Not Kill” his mere presence at the front of battle would cause the enemy to retreat, with them convinced he would have thousands following him.
On his return from war Warrior took part in the Hyde Park, London, Canadian Cavalry Parade, he then returned to the Isle of Wight and was cared for by General Seely. Warrior lived until 1941 when Seely felt that the extra corn ration needed to keep the ailing 33-year-old horse alive was not justified in Wartime, so he was reluctantly put to sleep.
2 Jimmy “The Sergeant”
Jimmy was a donkey born in France in a First World War trench, his mother was wounded by a shell and went into labour during the battle of the Somme in 1916.
Sadly she died shortly after giving birth, so the orphaned donkey was brought up by troops on the front line. His early life was living among falling shells and gunfire.
The little donkey was named Jimmy, he spent the next two years with the army, carrying equipment and soldiers, and they even managed to train him to raise his hoof in salute. Jimmy played an important part in raising the morale of the soldiers and was a great distraction from the horror that surrounded them. Jimmy survived battle injury three times.
After the war he gave a lot of pleasure to children and raised a lot of money for charity, he was sold at a charity auction to a Mrs Heath, from Cambridgeshire, England, and he spent the next 23 years with her, raising thousands of pounds for the RSPCA and he gave donkey rides to children.
Jimmy died in 1943 and is buried in Peterborough’s Central Park, where he has a monument erected in his honour.
Nearly 100 years after his birth Jimmy was posthumously awarded the highest military honour for an animal the Dicken Medal, he was also made an honorary sergeant with three stripes on his bridle.
1 Jackie The Baboon
Jackie was a chacma baboon; she had grown up as the pet of Albert Marrs family on a farm just outside Pretoria, South Africa.
When Albert joined the Transvaal Regiment as a private, he got special permission to bring Jackie with him. Jackie had been trained to behave like a human, and his behaviour was so impressive he was made the regiment’s mascot. He was even issued with a miniature uniform, and learned to march and stand guard duty.
Jackie’s sight and hearing were much keener than a human so he was proving very useful. In 1916 at the Battle of Agagia, Marr was shot in the shoulder; Jackie stayed with him licking his wound and comforting him until help arrived.
After recuperation, Marr and Jackie returned to the front line and during a ferocious fight in Belgium, Jackie became scared as shells and shrapnel rained down on him, he started to frantically pick up stones trying to build a barrier around himself for protection, despite this Jackie was severely injured.
His leg and arm were damaged, stretcher bearers tried to take him away like they would a human, but Jackie resisted initially before allowing them to take him to a hospital, where he was treated like any other soldier.
Jackie never went to battle again he went to England with Marr and raised money for the Red Cross, giving handshakes or a kiss in exchange for a donation. In 1919 Marr and Jackie returned to South Africa and continued to raise money. Sadly in 1921 he was killed in a house fire at the Marr family farm.
Jackie was awarded The Pretoria Citizens Service Medal and gold wound stripe for his services to the military.