Animals of War

This month we will remember the incredible sacrifices made by our troops. Anzac Day also an opportunity to remember the remarkable acts of bravery performed by animals in war. The Dickin Medal is awarded for these exceptional acts. Dogs, horses, birds and one cat have all received this medal.

Of Australian significance is Pigeon 139 who was on board a ship near New Guinea in 1945 when a severe tropical storm hit. As a last resort, an SOS message was attached to the little guy and he returned the message to home base 40 miles away. Help arrived and the army boat, vital cargo and crew were rescued.

Simon the cat received the award posthumously in 1949. Simon served on HMS Amethyst and disposed of many rats even though he had been wounded by shell blast. His behaviour was deemed 'of the highest order' - something we'd expect from a cat!

Smoky the four-pound Yorkshire terrier from Brisbane was sold to an American soldier.

The tiny canine was not trained as a war dog but would come to serve the Allied troops in World War II.

In January 1945, American and Australian soldiers were under fire from Japanese bombers at an airfield in the Philippines.

A number of soldiers had already been killed while trying to dig up ground to lay a telephone wire beneath the airstrip, which was urgently needed to call for help.

That was when Smoky the Yorkshire terrier stepped up.

Her owner, US soldier Bill Wynne, attached the telephone line to Smoky's collar and then coaxed her through a pipe that ran underneath the airstrip.

"They were able to connect the phone lines, call in the airstrike and take out the enemy threat so she perhaps saved far more lives than the three that were already lost," he said.

"Who knows how many other soldiers would've lost their lives trying to take that wire across the runway."

Smoky's service continued off the battlefield; she is the first recorded 'therapy dog' who helped cheer up soldiers at hospitals in both America and in Brisbane.

In 2015 the RSPCA awarded Smoky the Purple Cross medal for bravery, an honour only nine Australian animals have ever received.


Bill the Bastard was a notoriously bad-tempered World War I horse; the large waler steed had a reputation for biting, bucking and bullying the other horses.

No-one could ride him but Major Michael Shanahan, who formed a special bond with Bill.

t was August 1916, during the Battle of Romani, that Bill would be remembered for his bravery.

Mr Allsopp said three light horsemen had their mounts killed from under them and it was Bill who rode to their rescue.

"One soldier put his right foot in the right stirrup, another soldier put his leg up on the left stirrup, another soldier swung himself onto the back saddle whilst he still had a rider," he said.

"In the midst of battle, with bullets flying around them, Bill managed to canter away in very soft sand and steep sand dunes several kilometres back to safety."

Not all war animals are celebrated for their bravery.

Stan the Ram is the mascot for the 8th/9th Royal Australian Regiment infantry unit based in Brisbane.

He is invited to important military ceremonies and events and is much loved by the soldiers in his unit.

However, as the soldiers discovered, Stan is not always the best-behaved mascot.

Stan last year was finally promoted from a private to a corporal and of course, he is a very large merino with very large horns.

Unfortunately, during his parade ceremony, as the parade commander and handler bent down to promote Stan the Ram, Stan took it upon himself to head butt and chest butt his handler causing the handler to have several broken ribs and a dislocated collarbone.

Stan the Ram was court martialled the same day for assault and summarily demoted as punishment.

Original Article