Crea­tures of con­flict

Penrith Press - - FRONT PAGE -

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:

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

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