As we remember brave men and women who fought, and continue to fight, for our freedom, at events across the country on November 11th, maybe we should also acknowledge the contribution made by animals too? Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11th to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, but it is now a powerful symbol of recognition for the loss and sacrifices resulting from subsequent and current conflicts. It is marked by the laying of wreaths and events at war memorials throughout the country but did you know there is also a war memorial for animals too?

The Animals in War Memorial, located outside Hyde Park near Brook Gate, commemorates animals that died in wars and conflicts.

This moving and powerful monument inspired by a book, Animals in War by Jilly Cooper and created by David Backhouse, was unveiled by the Princess Royal in November 2004 following a national appeal that raised £2 million. In addition to the heavily laden bronze mules and the carved images of animals in conflict, the memorial has two inscriptions:

"This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time."

The second, smaller inscription simply reads: "They had no choice."

The Purple Poppy


Today it is possible to purchase a purple poppy, worn to remember animals that have been victims of war. The Animal Purple Poppy Fund uses the word poppy with the agreement of the Royal British Legion.



Animals have been drafted into war efforts for years, and it is believed that as many as 16 million animals served in the First World War. They were drafted in to carry military men and women,  they assisted with communications, sending messages across and between enemy lines, they carried medical supplies and transported the injured, helped with heavy lifting, search and rescue, mine and gas detection and to guard and protect people and facilities. Of course, they were not only used to work; all manner of animals including cats and dogs and more unusual creatures became part of the war effort as mascots and pets to raise morale and provide comfort amidst the hardships of war.

War Medals

Beauty was honored for helping to locate buried air raid victims while serving with a PDSA Rescue Squad during World War Two.

 The wire haired fox terrier received the Dickin Medal on 12 January 1945.

In 1943 the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) Dickin Medal was created in the United Kingdom by Maria Dickin. It was established as a way to honor the work of animals in World War II,  recognizing gallantry and devotion to duty. Between 1943 – 1949 the Dickin Medal was presented 54 times to a range of animals and birds including  pigeons, dogs, horses and also a cat.

This bronze medallion, bearing the words "For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve" within a laurel wreath, is often referred to as the animal Victoria Cross, and is still awarded to animals to this day. The latest recipient was Hertz, a German Shorthaired Pointer in the RAF for his work in Afghanistan.

Of course, the conflict in the Ukraine has brought us harrowing and moving images of domestic pets and farm animals caught up in the conflict; a reminder that war does not only have an impact on the human population.




November 08, 2022 — Robert Angell