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The Animals in War Memorial at Park Lane, London
Australian Animals in War Memorial, Canberra
Woodbank Memorial Park, Stockport, UK
and brief notes of other tributes to animals in wartime
The Animals in War Memorial
Park Lane, London
A striking memorial has been erected in London, England, to all the animals and other creatures that have been caught up in mankind's wars and have served, suffered and perished as a result. The idea for it came from author Jilly Cooper and some of her friends, a group of influential personalities in their own right, who in 1996 started the 'Animals in War' Memorial Fund with Anne, HRH The Princess Royal, as patron. Jilly herself donated to the fund all the royalties from her successful book Animals at War.
After a long and challenging nationwide fundraising operation to raise the £1 million or so needed, the Portland stone and cast-bronze memorial designed by David Backhouse, one of Britain's leading sculptors was unveiled on 24 November 2004, by Princess Anne, on its grassy site in central Park Lane, London. The fund will provide for its maintenance in perpetuity.
There's a cat to be seen among the animal silhouettes (included in the images below), and a mention on the memorial of the PDSA's Dickin Medal for valour.
The inscription carved on the front or inside of the memorial reads:
ANIMALS IN WAR
This memorial is dedicated to all the animals that served and died
They had no choice.
Upon the rear or outside of the memorial are these words:
Many and various animals were employed to support British and Allied Forces in wars and campaigns over the centuries, and as a result millions died. From the pigeon to the elephant, they all played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom.
As can be seen from one of the photos above, the PDSA's Dickin Medal is featured on the Animals in War memorial. Twelve recipients of the medal are buried at the PDSA Animal Cemetery at Ilford, including Simon of HMS Amethyst, the only cat to have been awarded the DM. At a ceremony in December 2007 the cemetery was reopened after extensive refurbishment, and an account and photographs of the event can be found at this separate page.
Australian Animals in War Memorial
Animals have played myriad vital roles in Australia's armed forces, from faithful companions to trusted guards and early-warning systems, and since 2009 Australia has had its own memorial to those animals. The statue, of a bronze horse's head mounted on a tear-shaped granite plinth, is placed in the Australian War Memorial's (AWM) sculpture garden in Canberra, the capital city.
The bronze horse head was originally a part of an ANZAC memorial dedicated to the Australian Light Horse Brigade (ALHB) and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) in Port Said, Egypt in 1932, where it was unveiled on behalf of both governments by Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes. Charles Web Gilbert won the design competition for the original memorial in 1923, along with a prize of 250 guineas, but died before it was completed. The statue was attacked and destroyed by Egyptian rioters in December 1956, during the Suez conflict; later the remaining pieces were returned to Australia and became part of the AWM's collection.
It is said that the model for the original sculpture was Sandy, General Sir William Bridges' charger from World War I, who was the only one from the thousands of Australian horses in that war to make it back home. Now the sculpture forms the upper part of the new memorial, designed by Canberra artist Steven Holland. The missing parts are evident and deliberately so, giving an emotive and poignant reminder of war.
The Australian RSPCA, which lobbied for 10 years for such a memorial to the contribution of animals in war, said it 'believes the Memorial to Animals in War cements in stone the significance of animals in our society and pays homage to a bond between man and beast that no war could fracture'.
Notes: As seen in the images here (from the US Library of Congress), two horses and troopers formed the sculpture of the original Port Said memorial, representing both ANZAC nations and losses sustained in Palestine and Syria 1916-18 by the ALHB and NZMR of the Desert Mounted Corps. Also remembered were the Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Flying Corps.
The Purple Cross
The Australian RSPCA has its own bravery awards for animals, the highest of which is the Purple Cross. It's been awarded nine times, most recently in April 2011 to Sarbi, a black Labrador now retired from the Australian Army; she was an explosives detection dog in Afghanistan.
Woodbank Memorial Park
In 1921 Sir Thomas Rowbotham, a former mayor of Stockport then in Cheshire but now part of Greater Manchester donated Woodbank Memorial Park to the townspeople in honour of the Stockport men who fell in World War 1, but although the park is registered with the UK National Inventory of War Memorials as a memorial park, there was nothing in the park itself to acknowledge its purpose. As with other, similar sites in the country, most local people had forgotten, or never knew about, its history.
When a council officer located a sum of money from which the interest could be used only in the park, the group known as the official 'Friends of Woodbank Park' was asked how the money should be spent. A tree had been cut into a totem a couple of years earlier in the hope that funding might become available for a sculpture, but at the time it wasn't a priority and nothing further happened. When the new money was offered it was insufficient for other, larger projects and so it was decided to develop the sculpture. It didn't take the animal lovers in the group long to decide that the subject.should be animals that had died in humankind's wars; that would be something unique to the park, while recognising its memorial status and acknowledging the sacrifice made by the innocents who did not volunteer to die.
The memorial takes the form of a chainsaw carving, situated on the park's main drive, not far from the entrance. The principal animal shown is a horse, at the top, but there are also a mule, a pigeon and a cat. The cat is the least successful rendition, unfortunately; we were told it was 'supposed to look more like Simon'! Inscriptions carved around the trunk read 'They died in war' and 'They still serve in conflict'. As can be seen from the images, some were taken shortly after the carving was completed, the others after some months of weathering. There are plans to add a flowerbed at the base in due course, as well as an information board.
(With thanks to Anne Forester, Chair of the Friends of Woodbank, for contacting us and supplying the information.)
Animals remembered elsewhere . . .
The greatness of a nation consists not so much in the number of its people or the extent of its territory as in the extent and justice of its compassion.
inscription on a memorial in Port Elizabeth, South Africa,
to the thousands of animals that died in the Boer War, 1899-1902
For animals, there is no Geneva Convention and no peace treaty just our mercy.
Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA
(People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
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