Creatures of conflict
FROM assisting in battle to providing comfort to homesick troops, animals have long been a part of Australia’s military history.
Here are some of the many significant roles they have been used for in wars.
The use of pigeons for communications continued long after technology in radar, wireless and telephone had advanced.
They could carry messages over oceans, mountains and jungle and had the advantage of being silent, difficult to intercept and not significantly affected by gas or noise.
The Australian Corps of Signals Pigeon Service was established during WWII and pigeons were trained to carry a message up to 193km at an average speed of 48km/h.
Two Australian pigeons were awarded Dicken Medals — the animals’ Victoria Cross — for their outstanding service in 1947.
Our feline friends have been war ship passengers for hundreds of years and were considered to be good luck for a voyage.
Navy cats were initially recruited for their mouse and rat catching abilities to protect food stores but they also had the essential role of raising morale.
By WWI, cats and kittens were mascots of not only ships but infantry regiments and air force squadrons.
Military working dogs have long served our country in many roles, such as guards, messengers and lifesavers.
Their keen sense of smell has been used to locate injured soldiers, track the enemy and detect mines, similar to the bomb detector dogs of today.
They also helped to deliver messages through the trenches and carry items such as ammunition and medical supplies.
Horses have been used extensively during war as a means of transport, pulling wagons, ambulances and water carts.
Waler horses, which were originally sold from NSW, were considered the finest cavalry horses in the world and could travel long distances in hot weather with little water.
Other four-legged animals such as mules, oxen, camels and donkeys were also often used for transport services.
Adopting an animal as a mascot was common practice for many Australian units in the First and Second World Wars to help boost morale.
Dogs and cats were popular choices but some units also took kangaroos, monkeys, birds, goats, turtles and koalas.
Information from the Australian War Memorial website.
For more details see: awm.gov.au
From left: Staff Sergeant Major Morgan and dog (1915), “Tim” the turtle, a man and a donkey (1941), WWI navy cat. Pictures: Australian War Memorial