l. 20,000 dogs serving Britain and her allies in WW1. Messenger dogs, mercy dogs, guard dogs and mascots did their bit for King and Country. Stubby even warned of impending gas attacks. Dogs were the first domesticated animal and have been used in battle throughout history. The Roman Army had whole companies of dogs wearing spiked collars around their neck and ankles.
2. Pigeons have been used as message carriers for over 5,000 years. Their vital messages saved the lives of thousands in WWI and WW2. Cher Ami was given the Croix de Guerre for her heroic message delivery that saved many soldiers' lives, despite being shot at and terribly injured.
3. Humans began to domesticate horses in Central Asia around 4000 BC and they've been used in warfare for most of recorded history. They are prey animals and so their first reaction to threat is to startle and flee. Despite this, against their natural instincts, they've raced into countless battles, carrying their riders. Over eight million died in WW1.
4. From Simpson and his donkey at Gallipoli to Jimmy 'The Sergeant', born at The Battle of the Somme, donkeys have saved soldiers lives and given their own. More suited to green fields than battlefields, donkeys have been to War for as long as horses have.
5. An estimated 500,000 cats served in World War I. In the trenches of the Western front there were serious problems with rats. WWI cats also detected gas.
No animal chooses to go to war but their selfless acts of unconscious heroism show us how to be true heroes. View our Purple Empire Poppy Range Here
It is recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross. Instituted in 1943 by PDSA’s founder Maria Dickin CBE, it acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war throughout the world.
The PDSA Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and sky blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.
During the Second World War (1939-45), PDSA's founder Maria Dickin CBE was aware of the incredible bravery displayed by animals on active service and the Home Front. Inspired by the animals’ devotion to man and duty, she introduced a special medal specifically for animals in war.
The Medal has been awarded 71 times since 1943 plus 1 Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal which was awarded in 2014. The recipients comprise 34 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses and 1 cat.
The Purple Poppy Day is the 23rd August. The purple poppy is a symbol of remembrance in the United Kingdom for animals that served during wartime.
Over 16 million animals served in the First World War. They were used for transport, communication and companionship.
In 1914, both sides had large cavalry forces. Horse and camel-mounted troops were used in the desert campaigns throughout the war, but on the Western Front, new weapons like the machine gun made cavalry charges increasingly difficult.
However, animals remained a crucial part of the war effort. Horses, donkeys, mules and camels carried food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to men at the front, and dogs and pigeons carried messages. Canaries were used to detect poisonous gas, and cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches.
Animals were not only used for work. Dogs, cats, and more unusual animals including monkeys, bears and lions, were kept as pets and mascots to raise morale and provide comfort amidst the hardships of war.