‘These an­i­mals killed dur­ing the war didn’t have a choice’

As sup­port­ers are hon­our­ing sol­diers and an­i­mals dur­ing remembrance, Richard Ault asks if you will be wear­ing red, white or pur­ple pop­pies

The Sentinel - - THE BIG ISSUE -

PUR­PLE pop­pies are blend­ing in with red this year as more peo­ple choose to com­mem­o­rate Remembrance Sun­day by wear­ing a dif­fer­ent colour.

Red pop­pies, sold by the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion, re­main the most pop­u­lar, and it is sales of these which ben­e­fit the char­ity’s work in help­ing ser­vice men and women, veter­ans and their fam­i­lies.

The pur­ple poppy is less com­mon, but is de­signed to re­mem­ber an­i­mals that have been killed in war.

It was orig­i­nally launched by An­i­mal Aid, but the char­ity felt its mes­sage was mis­rep­re­sented and switched to us­ing a pur­ple paw badge, which can be worn all year round, to com­mem­o­rate, ‘all an­i­mal vic­tims of hu­man ex­ploita­tion’.

Mur­phy’s Army – a char­ity which re­unites lost and stolen pets with their own­ers – launched its first pur­ple poppy cam­paign in 2016.

Sarah Akhtar, of the Tren­tham World War One Project, is wear­ing a pur­ple poppy this year along­side her tra­di­tional red one.

Sarah, of Tren­tham, said: “I think it’s a good idea to re­mem­ber the an­i­mals who were killed dur­ing the war, par­tic­u­larly the horses.

“There’s a con­nec­tion with Tren­tham and the horses which were brought through here. There were al­ready black­smiths in Tren­tham and Hem Heath. The horses came to But­ter­ton and then to Tren­tham to be shod.

“They used the parks for train­ing the horses, and black­smiths like Abra­ham Clay made sure they were prop­erly shod and helped to train the far­ri­ers.

“These an­i­mals didn’t have a choice.”

On the out­break of the First World War, the army pos­sessed just 25,000 horses, which were used by the cavalry, as well as to pull heavy guns, trans­port weapons and sup­plies, and carry the wounded to hos­pi­tal.

The War Of­fice was given the ur­gent task of re­cruit­ing half a mil­lion more for the front line, which meant emp­ty­ing the coun­try­side of shire horses and rid­ing ponies.

Tren­tham Hall Sta­bles be­came an Army Re­mount Unit, with an out­post at But­ter­ton.

Thou­sands of horses passed through Tren­tham Hall Sta­bles on their way to the Front be­tween 1914 and 1918.

Few re­turned home. In fact it is es­ti­mated that eight mil­lion horses, along with count­less mules and don­keys, died in ser­vice dur­ing the Great War. One horse which did make it home was Christ Church, Lord San­don’s charger, who ac­com­pa­nied him to the Western Front. Lord San­don, an of­fi­cer with the Royal Field Ar­tillery, rode Christ Church through­out the war, then brought him home to San­don Hall, near Stone, when it was all over.

Many other an­i­mals, apart from horses, were put to use. Pi­geons car­ried mes­sages, cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches, and ca­naries were used to de­tect poi­sonous gas.

At Mil­ton Par­ish Church, a ‘Weep­ing Win­dow’ of more than 3,000 knit­ted and cro­cheted pop­pies has been cre­ated for Remembrance Sun­day. A spe­cial fea­ture of the dis­play is the in­clu­sion of pur­ple pop­pies ‘to re­mem­ber the huge num­bers of horses, don­keys and pack-mules who lost their lives’.

Rev­erend Pat Beck­ett said: “When we were talk­ing about knit­ting red pop­pies, some­one sug­gested in­clud­ing pur­ple ones. I looked it up and there were over a mil­lion horses from across the coun­try which went to war.

“They faced all the same things as the men did, and most of them died. We thought it would be good to re­mem­ber them as well, not to take any­thing away from the men.”

In ad­di­tion to pur­ple, peo­ple can choose to wear white pop­pies, which have been worn for more than 80 years by thou­sands of peo­ple.

They rep­re­sent remembrance for all vic­tims of war, a com­mit­ment to peace, and a chal­lenge to at­tempts to glam­ourise or cel­e­brate war.

Some mem­bers of the Green Party have his­tor­i­cally shown their sup­port for the idea.

Jan Zablocki, left, co-or­di­na­tor of North Stafford­shire Green Party – who doesn’t wear a white poppy him­self – said: “I think it rep­re­sents the mes­sage that we should pre­vent war, not have to com­mem­o­rate it af­ter­wards.

“What we shouldn’t do is have this child­ish con­flict be­tween white and red.”

But An­thony For­rester, of Meir – poppy area or­gan­iser for the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion – said: “There’s lots of peo­ple that have jumped on the band­wagon.

“The red poppy is the only one which funds the Bri­tish Le­gion and goes to help mem­bers of the Armed Forces.”

RE­SPECT: Pur­ple pop­pies are used to re­mem­ber an­i­mals that fell dur­ing the war.

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