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Animals in the Great War...


...another Images of War title from Pen and Sword


Title: Animals in the Great War

Author: Lucinda Moore

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47386-211-6

This new Images of War release from Pen and Sword is something just a little bit different to usual.  Not unusual to see a WW1 topic, but rather than mechanical equipment, this time we look at the wide variety of animals employed by the various Armies during the war. Using images in particular from the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath, London where the author is a picture researcher, and from the Illustrated London News Archive.  I have to say that author Lucinda Moore has come up with a great mix of images, with both photos, drawings and propaganda posters/postcards.  The film and play of 'Warhorse' has attracted lots of public attention to the story of horses in WW1 and this takes it on to an even greater level, featuring a number of elements which I had not been aware of before.

In basic terms there are 7 chapters, which are Tails from the Sea: The Dogs of War: Birds in Battle: All Creatures Great and Small: A Political Animal (Use as symbols and propaganda): Four-Footed Fighters (Horses at War): and finally Mules and Donkeys at the Front.

Some of the images illustrate the role of animals in the war that many of us will be familiar with.  There are of course Horses and Mules used as cavalry and artillery and supply wagon teams.  The conditions they faced were frequently grim, which took a heavy toll on so many, yet the veterinary care they received is well illustrated just as much, sometimes in the face of serious injury or sickness.

What about birds though?  There were songbirds used as convalescence aids for the wounded, as gas detectors in trenches and of course the carrier pigeons as well.  In both Britain and Germany there are images of circus elephants being used for heavy lifting tasks.  One of the least pleasant aspects of the war were the rats that infested the trenches of the Western Front.  They carried disease and had plenty of readily available food from the huge number of corpses that littered the landscape of no-mans land.  The pictures of the various rat catchers are quite eye catching, and for the modeller may well provide an unusual element for a vignette or larger diorama.

Dogs feature as pets and mascots, as well as working dogs such as the French Ambulance and Regimental War Dogs.  If you want slightly more unusual, then other than the elephants, how about seals trained by the Royal Navy to work as submarine detectors and the sad complication of large whales being mistakenly attacked at times when they were thought to be submarines underwater.

With each chapter there are some pages of introductory text to set the background, followed by a selection of images on the topic, all with detailed captions to explain them.  A wide variety of stories in here and giving worthwhile exposure to many little known aspects of animals working for the war effort during WW1, and the way that they were used for political imagery in the propaganda war as well.   slightly different take on the Great War and an interesting addition to the Images of War series as a result.


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