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The recruitment of animals...


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Hi guys!

 

I have another somewhat-weird question for you.

 

I'm writing a chapter about the animals that went to the war, and I wonder (and Google doesn't seem to be helpful for me about that) - where did they get the animals from?

 

Did they 'recruit' the horses by buying them from farms across the country? Did they breed the dogs? What about the geese and the camels etc.?

 

 

Would love some information about that.

Thank you so much,

Amit.

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WhiteStarLine

Hi Amit,

 

Don't forget the pigeons!

 

Dogs were introduced quite quickly and 3 years into the war when their capability to deliver messages was realised.  So this left no time for a breeding program.  Here is a quotation from the "Signal Service in WW1" which will give you an insight.  The same book (free download) has a similar section on training carrier pigeons.

 

Quote


The use of messenger dogs in the British Army is an interesting instance of the evolution of an entirely new method of forward signalling to meet a particular type of warfare. In September, 1917, definite information was received from German prisoners of the utilization of these animals for message-carrying purposes, and it was rather earlier than this — in the Messines offensive — that the first experiments with " liaison dogs," as they were then called, was carried out by an artillery commander. These initial ventures were so successful that the project was taken up officially and a War Dog School was formed at Shoeburyness under an officer who had long made a hobby and business of training dogs for war purposes and who was an acknowledged expert on this subject.

 

At first the employment of the dogs was permitted to depend upon the will of the individual units who expressed a desire to have them as an extra means of communication, but this haphazard organization could not long survive. The relations between the human and the canine species, though very gratifying from the point of view of civilization, were too amicable for the best results to be obtained without great insistence upon dog discipline. The tendency to make pets of the animals, and the lack of appreciation both of their capabilities and of their limitations, much decreased the value of the dogs as reliable means of liaison. Orders were therefore issued in November, 1917, for the centralization of the messenger dog service under the O.C. Carrier Pigeon Service as the senior representative of the most nearly allied branch of the Signal Service. The messenger dogs already with 
units in the field were withdrawn to a central kennel at Etaples, re-sorted and re-trained. Sectional kennels were then formed at certain Corps headquarters and the messenger dog service re-started on a regular basis. 

 

Reports as to the utility of the dogs varied considerably in tenor during the next few months ; but they were sufficiently successful to permit of the retention of the service. The animals were speedy — averaging in one Division a mile in seven minutes — but their eyes were badly affected by gas and they were reported as somewhat unreliable under heavy shelling. On the other hand, they frequently did valuable service in situations where runners would have been exposed to great risk. They had one or two advantages over pigeons ; they could be used at night, and their training to a new area took one week only as opposed to the three or four weeks necessary to habituate pigeons to a new district. Training was carried out 
both at home and abroad. At home, the dogs were given a thorough training at the Shoeburyness War Dog School. Here they were accustomed to the noise and smoke of gunfire.

The Signal Service in the European War of 1914-1918 (France)
BY R. E. PRIESTLEY, M.C, B.A. 
(Late Major, R.E.). 

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Moonraker
9 hours ago, Amitmis said:

... I'm writing a chapter about the animals that went to the war, and I wonder (and Google doesn't seem to be helpful for me about that) - where did they get the animals from?

 

Did they 'recruit' the horses by buying them from farms across the country? Did they breed the dogs? What about the geese and the camels etc.?

You don't seem to have much luck with your Googling. Search for "animals great war forum" and "horses great war forum" will lead you to existing threads and give you a lot of information. And there are plenty more sites elsewhere on the Web.

 

You must have heard of the book and film "War Horse". Again, Googling "war horse film great war forum" will take you a variety of opinions, and there are many more to be found on the Web.

 

Pedantically, pigeons are not animals. but they too had a role, as many threads here on the GWF discuss.

 

By the way, how have you got on with your research into the gun/bullet that killed the Archduke?

 

 

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Ron Clifton

The British Army had a programme before the war whereby they paid a subsidy to horse-owners who registered with them, and thus acquired the right to "conscript" the horses upon mobilisation. Something like 100,000 horses were obtained in a few weeks in August 1914 under this scheme.

 

Ron

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Wilson, DAH. Sea Lions, Greasepaint and the U-Boat Threat: Admiralty Scientists Turn to the Music Hall in 1916.

Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. Vol. 55, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 425-455.

 

Available on JSTOR which has made its contents free during the lockdown.  https://www.jstor.org/

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Moonraker
10 minutes ago, seaJane said:

... Available on JSTOR which has made its contents free during the lockdown.  https://www.jstor.org/

Thanks for the tip-off, Jane. More than 800 hits for "Salisbury Plain", about 10% of which seem to relate to military activities, so that should keep me occupied for a day or two.

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Hyacinth1326
1 hour ago, seaJane said:

Wilson, DAH. Sea Lions, Greasepaint and the U-Boat Threat: Admiralty Scientists Turn to the Music Hall in 1916.

 

 

If I had not just read that, I would not have believed it.

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Hedley Malloch

The Germans used elephants in forest clearing operations in France and Belgium, recruited from Hamburg zoo and a circus. The circus elephant was called Nellie. History has not recorded if she packed her trunks when she bade farewell to the circus.

 

There is at least one horse buried under a CWGC headstone. This is Old Bill who helped on the post-war cemetery building operations in Gallipoli. He is buried in the CWGC compound in Anzac Cove.

 

Important point: 'War horse' was recruited from the Elswick area of Newcastle and not, as has been popularly depicted, from some farm down south. His correct name is 'Wor Horse'.

 

There is a magnificent memorial to the messenger pigeons who served in the French army and navy during WW1 in the Champs de Mars, Lille. It lists all their battle honours. It has featured several times in this forum over the years.

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michaeldr
1 hour ago, Hedley Malloch said:

 'War horse' was recruited from the Elswick area of Newcastle and not, as has been popularly depicted, from some farm down south. His correct name is 'Wor Horse'.

 

Hedley,

 

Thank you for that smile; what a great idea!

I've been thinking a lot about my Geordie grandfathers this morning. Particularly the one from Elswick, sailing with the RND off the Gulf of Saros and about to land (28/29th) for the Defence of Anzac.

 

Ahl the best bonny lad!

Michael

Edited by michaeldr
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Ron Clifton
5 hours ago, Hedley Malloch said:

There is a magnificent memorial to the messenger pigeons who served in the French army and navy during WW1 in the Champs de Mars, Lille. It lists all their battle honours. It has featured several times in this forum over the years.

Not forgetting the one at Fort Vaux, erected by (IIRC) the "Colombophiles de France" in memory of the last pigeon sent out of that fortress before it capitulated.

 

Ron

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WhiteStarLine
22 hours ago, Moonraker said:

pigeons are not animals

@Moonraker, ooh that hurt! But I've flown back out of my coop after some counselling from the senior Columbid ...

 

Just looking at the web site url that @PerthDigger uses as his signature and there is an intriguing article about a 1914 Guards officer whose life was supposedly saved by a cat.  The researchers consider it, to an extent, plausible and it is an interesting story as he was reported dead in 1914, found alive after his funeral service, then sadly killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

 

Synopsis, copied from http://www.greatwarbritishofficers.com/

 

Saved by a Cat: Marteine Kemes Arundel Lloyd of the Grenadier Guards, 1891 - 1916

Animals have always played an important role in war, from Hannibal’s elephants to horses, dogs and pigeons in twentieth-century wars. However one cat received considerable publicity, for he had apparently saved the life of a British officer. This paper examines that event in the context of the life of the officer he supposedly saved.

 

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Steven Broomfield
23 hours ago, Moonraker said:

 

 

Pedantically, pigeons are not animals. but they too had a role, as many threads here on the GWF discuss.

 

 

 

'Four legs good, two legs bad'. I believe Snowball decreed wings count as legs. For the sake of the example, I think pigeons can be animals.

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Ron Clifton

Well, they are not vegetables or minerals, so ...

 

2 hours ago, WhiteStarLine said:

there is an intriguing article about a 1914 Guards officer whose life was supposedly saved by a cat.

I think that it is in a fairly early edition of STAND TO! The cat was called Corons Tabby, and she found the officer lying wounded, and sat on his chest to keep him warm until help arrived.

 

Ron

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Hyacinth1326
22 hours ago, Hedley Malloch said:

 

Important point: 'War horse' was recruited from the Elswick area of Newcastle and not, as has been popularly depicted, from some farm down south. His correct name is 'Wor Horse'.

 

 

 

Wor Horse. I Like it.  I remember the photo of Nellie the Elephant in your book.

Edited by Hyacinth1326
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1 hour ago, Steven Broomfield said:

pigeons can be animals.

I agree. What they aren't is mammals.

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FROGSMILE
Steven Broomfield
3 hours ago, Ron Clifton said:

 

 

I think that it is in a fairly early edition of STAND TO! The cat was called Corons Tabby, and she found the officer lying wounded, and sat on his chest to keep him warm until help arrived.

 

Ron

 

No doubt whilst washing its BTM in a vaguely menacing way.

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David Filsell

Knowing the deviousness of cats, more likely the animal probably hungry and patiently awaiting for the wounded man to die!

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Hyacinth1326
2 hours ago, David Filsell said:

Knowing the deviousness of cats, more likely the animal probably hungry and patiently awaiting for the wounded man to die!

 

While keeping itself warm on his chest in the process.  I've nothing against mogs.  I just recognise that if they could, they would kill and eat humans for the hell of it.

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Ron Clifton

Those of you familiar with H Hesketh-{ritchard's Sniping in France will probably recall the story about the cat seen sunning itself on the German parapet for a few days, in a section of trench which was thought to be unoccupied. The British snipers, having little else to do (apart from staying alert) duly recorded the cat's presence in their daily reports. Their officer brought this to the attention of a visiting intelligence officer from Corps, who arranged for an over-flight by the RFC which revealed a new headquarters dugout under construction. The RFA duly "dealt with" the position but the cat escaped and was last seen high-tailing it back to Martinpuich.

 

Ron

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