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Animals in World War One

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Rhiannon Ford

on 5 June 2014

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Transcript of Animals in World War One

Animals in World War One
During World War One, glowworms were used to light up the British trenches. Using glowworms instead of torches or candles saved on resources, and could be collected in their hundreds to give light to the soldiers. The light would usually be used to read maps or letters from home, or to just give comfort. It is thought that the light emitted from the trenches while glowworms were in use was the equivalent to a modern day lit road at night.
Dolphins and Sea lions were used by navies to recover lost or suspicious objects from the sea. They were also used to guard harbors and investigate enemy divers.
Camels were used in New Zealand and Australia for transport of solders and supplies. in 1916 the ICC (Imperial Camels' Corp) was founded, which camels could be used in battle during the First World War. There were about 922 camels in each battalion, and around 700 soldiers to use them. Altogether, there were 3 battalions by 1918, 1 British and 2 Australian plus supporting units from New Zealand, Egypt, Hong Kong and India. The ICC was disbanded after several hundred deaths in both soldiers and camels in May 1919.
Elephants were used to haul extremely heavy supplies around. Lizzie, a circus elephant was one of these, and was used in Sheffield to deliver pieces of scrap metal from merchants when all the horses had gone to war. Other elephants did the horse's jobs like ploughing and hauling crops
Lots of dog breeds were used during World War One. Doberman's were used because they are both highly intelligent and easily trainable, and possess excellent guarding abilities. Being of slight frame and extremely agile, their dark coat allowed them to slip undetected through terrain without alerting the enemy. They were employed most frequently in Germany. German Shepherds were used also because of their strength, intelligence and train ability, being eager to please their masters. Other breeds associated with WWI were smaller breeds such as terriers, who were most often employed as 'ratters’. Military dogs in World War One were positioned in a variety of roles, depending on their size, intelligence and training. Generally, the roles fell into the category of sentry dogs, scout dogs, casualty dogs, explosive dogs, ratters, messenger dogs and mascot dogs.

It is estimated that by 1918, Germany had employed 30,000 dogs, Britain, France and Belgian over 20,000 and Italy 3000. America, at first, did not use dogs except to utilise a few hundred from the Allies for specific missions. Later, after a chance stowaway, the USA produced the most decorated and highly-ranked service dog in military history, Sergeant Stubby.
Sergeant Stubby, born in 1916/17 was a stray, homeless pitbull mix who became America’s first war dog that served with the 102nd Infantry, 26th (Yankee) Division in the trenches in France in the First World War for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the western front.

When he stumbled onto the parade ground on the campus of Yale University, where the men of the 102nd Regiment, 26th Infantry Division were training for their eventual deployment to fight in World War I. Stubby was adopted by private john Robert Conroy who named him “stubby” on account of his short stubby tail.

Conroy started leaving food out and let the little pitbull sleep in the barracks from time to time, before long everyone in the 102nd infantry had taken a shine to stubby. After just a few weeks of watching the soldiers, stubby learned the bugle calls, could execute the marching manoeuvres with the men, and was trained to salute to superior officers.

Sargent Stubby
Private J. Robert Conroy. Stubby entered combat on February 5, 1918 at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid to take Schieprey, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by the retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence, and as he had done on the front was able to improve morale. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches. Stubby was also gassed a few times and ended up in hospital where he was reunited with his injured friend Robert Conroy. The pair eventually returned to the 102nd where they served for the remainder of the war.
When the order came down for the 102nd to ship out to battle. Conroy stuffed the dog into his greatcoat and smuggled stubby below deck on the SS Minnesota on board a ship bound for France. Once the transport was under way, Conroy brought the dog out onto the deck and the sailors all decided this dog was so sweet that they had a machinists' mate make him a set of dog tags to match the ones worn by the soldiers. When Conroy’s dog smuggling operation was discovered by Conroy’s commanding officer, Conroy gave the order to, "Present Arms”. Stubby saluted the commander, who was so impressed that from that point on Stubby was officially allowed to follow Yankee Division out to the battlefront.
After being gassed, Stubby learned to warn his unit of poison gas attacks and because he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans could, he was able to run through the trenches barking to alerting his unit and letting them know when to duck for cover. Stubby was trained to recognize English, so he was keen to locate wounded Americans in No Man’s Land. Stubby would dash out there when he heard soldiers speaking English and stand near the wounded, barking until a medic arrived.
Stubby was solely responsible for capturing a German spy in the Argonne mapping out the American trenches. Stubby bit him and caused him to trip, then American soldiers took the German as a prisoner. He also helped free a French town from the Germans.

For this heroic deed, Stubby was promoted to the rank of sergeant, making him the first animal ever to be given a rank in the U.S. military. Following the retaking of Château-Thierry by the US, the women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat on which were pinned his many medals.

At the end of the war, Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby back home. After returning home, stubby became a national celebrity and marched/led many parades. He also met three presidents, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and warren G. Harding. Starting in 1921, Stubby attended Georgetown University Law Center with Conroy and became the Georgetown Hoyas' team mascot for few years. Stubby would be given the football at halftime and would nudge the ball around the field for the amusement of the fans.
1926, Stubby died in Conroy’s arms as the most renowned animal war hero in American history. Stubby’s remains were preserved and are still on display at “The Price of Freedom” exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. with his decorated blanket, preserved and presented for display purposes. He stands today in the Smithsonian next to “Cher Ami,” the famous carrier pigeon of World War I who was responsible for helping locate the “Lost Batallion.”
Cats were used as gas detectors, because of their strong sense of smell, and to hunt rats in the trenches in Britain. Cats were often found crossing between trenches too. One account saw two cats repeatedly crossing the British trenches and it was thought that they were working as spies for the German. However, this was proved false but it did have to have official army documents passed. Cats were also used as mascots in the trenches, because they were 'stress- busters' Soldiers always feel better around mascots, apparently.
Casualty or 'Mercy' dogs were vital in World War One. Originally trained in the late 1800's by the Germans, they were later utilised across Europe. Known as 'Sanitatshunde' in Germany, these dogs were trained to find the wounded and dying on battlefields and were equipped with medical supplies to aid those suffering. Those soldiers who could help themselves to supplies would tend to their own wounds, whilst other more gravely wounded soldiers would seek the company of a Mercy dog to wait with them whilst they died.
Messenger dogs were used as messengers and proved to be as reliable as soldiers in the dangerous job of running messages. The complexities of trench warfare meant that communication was always a problem. Field communication systems were crude and there was always the very real possibility that vital messages from the front would never get back to headquarters or vice verse. Human runners were potentially large targets and weighed down by uniforms there was a chance that they would not get through. In the heat of a battle, there was even less of a chance of a runner getting through as the enemy's artillery was likely to be pounding your front line and the area behind it. Vehicles were also problematic as they could breakdown or the 'roads' could have been reduced to a mushy pulp and travel on them made impossible. Dogs were the obvious solution to this pressing problem. A trained dog was faster than a human runner, presented less of a target to a sniper and could travel over any terrain. Above all, dogs proved to be extremely reliable if they were well trained. A dog training school was established in Scotland and a recruit from this school traveled over 4000 meters on the Western Front with an important message to a brigade's headquarters. The dog traveled this distance in less than sixty minutes (war records classed it as "very difficult" terrain). All other methods of communicating with the headquarters had failed - but the dog had got through.
Mascot dogs also had another role to play on the Western Front. For men trapped in the horrors of trench warfare, a dog in the trenches (whether a messenger dog or not) was a psychological comfort that took away, if only for a short time, the horrors they lived through. It is said that Adolf Hitler kept a dog with him in the German trenches. For many soldiers on any of the sides that fought in the trenches, a dog must have reminded them of home comforts.
Sentry dogs were trained to accompany usually one specific guard and were taught to give a warning signal such as a growl, bark or snarl to indicate when an unknown or suspicious presence was in the secure area such as a camp or military base. Dobermans have traditionally been used as sentry dogs and are still widely used today as guard dogs.
Scout dogs were highly trained and had to be of a quiet, disciplined nature. Their role was to work with soldiers on foot patrolling the terrain ahead of them. These dogs were useful to the military because they could detect enemy scent up to 1000 yards away, sooner than any man could. Instead of barking and thus drawing attention to the squad, the dogs would stiffen raise its shackles and point its tail, which indicated that the enemy was encroaching upon the terrain. Scout dogs were widely used because they were highly efficient in avoiding detection of the squad.
Millions of horses and mules were used in World War 1. There were 220,187 supply horses, 219,509 supply mules, 111,171 riding horses, 87,557 gun horses and 75,342 used in the cavalry. Horses were also used to pull chariots, transport equipment and soldiers into war.
In the 1916 battle of Verdun 7 thousand horses were killed, many died from exhaustion, gas attacks and disease. 2.5 million horses were treated by Britain’s royal army veterinary corps.

The British Army provided 2,978,301 tons of oats and 2,460,301 tons of pressed hay as fodder during the conflict. The average ration of a supply horse was 20lb of fodder, which was a fifth less than recommended. This meant the average battalion needed at least 7,840lb of oats and hay a week to feed its 56 horses. They could spend up to five hours eating a day.
By November 1918, nearly 19,000 men were serving in the Remount Department of the British Army preparing horses to be sent to war across three continents. Each 1000-man infantry battalion had a transport section of 20 men, who looked after the riding horses, supply horses and supply mules. In the muddy conditions it could take 12 hours to clean the horses and their equipment.
Over 1,300 officers served as veterinary surgeons across all theatres of war. There were also more than 27,000 men serving in the Army Veterinary Corps, who supported the medical treatment of horses. The British Army Veterinary Corp hospitals in France received 725,000 horses and successfully treated three-quarters of them. A typical horse hospital could treat 2,000 animals at any one time.
On average the British Army lost 15% of its horses every year. Surprisingly, just a quarter of horse deaths were caused by enemy action. The biggest killer was ‘debility’ – a condition caused by exposure to the elements, hunger and illness.
Messenger Dogs
Mascot Dogs
Scout Dogs
Sentry Dogs
Casualty Dogs
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