By Jilly Cooper
Jilly Cooper has written a tribute to the position of animals in wartime. From the pigeons wearing important messages to and from the beleaguered urban in the course of the Seige of Paris to canine sniffing out mines for the British invasion strength in global conflict II. A brilliant checklist of man's inhumanity to animals, and an fabulous tale of braveness.
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A Royal Field Artillery driver, a Welshman, had been with the same team for three years. He tells a poignant story that during the retreat from Mons, a shell crashed into the middle of his section. As the gun was wrecked, he was immediately ordered on to another. As he mounted his new horse, and continued the retreat, he saw his old horses flailing on the ground, and was relieved when a French chasseur rushed up and cut the traces. Seeing their old driver ahead, they followed him for four days.
I don’t know if they got anything to eat or dropped from sheer exhaustion. One morning when the retreat was all over, I missed them. That’s the sort of thing that hurts a soldier in war. A fine sense of priorities: the Albert-Amiens road, August 1916. IWM Another redeeming feature about World War I was that it was the first war which had the advantage of a properly trained veterinary service. In 1913, sanction had been given for a mobile veterinary section to be attached to every cavalry and infantry brigade to pick up sick and lame animals shed during the fighting.
Charging against the newer, more powerful and accurate guns, generals on both sides found they were losing too many horses. The new technique was therefore to gallop within gunfire range of the enemy, leap off your horse, leaving him in charge of a soldier, then pound away at the enemy until your ammunition ran out, then if you were still alive, you jumped on to your rested horse, and galloped away to safety. Unfortunately, the British, wrapped in their usual isolation, took absolutely no notice of these new tactics and continued to dream of the knee-to-knee cavalry charge.
Animals in War by Jilly Cooper