27 Photographs of the Heroic Animals of WWI

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Animals played a crucial role in World War I and demonstrated heroisms and valor along with the men they fought with.

Pigeons had important roles in communication because of their speed and ability to fly above the fray. They also have natural homing instincts which makes them extremely reliable and capable as messengers, because they could always find their way home. Pigeons were so important that during the war, the British Defense of the Realm Act made it a crime to kill, wound, bother, or not adequately take care of pigeons.

Dogs were also used as messengers during the war because they could more easily navigate the trenches and battlefields than soldiers could. Dogs were also able to locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield because of their sense of smell. Their smell and hearing also made dogs effective guards and scouts. They could also detect enemy gas before the soldiers and alert the men of the danger by barking.

Horses and mules were important beasts of burden to move artillery, supplies, and other materials. Horses were used as transportation and seen as crucial life savers for wounded soldiers. General John J. Pershing stated ‘The army horses and mules proved of inestimable value in prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. They were found in all the theaters of preparation and operation doing their silent but faithful work without the faculty of hoping for any reward or compensation.’

Even slugs played an important role. Slugs were able to detect mustard gas before humans could and would visibly indicate their discomfort by closing their breathing pores and compressing their bodies. When soldiers saw this, they would quickly but on their gas masks. Slugs wound up saving many lives.

A pigeon with a small camera attached. The trained birds were used experimentally by German citizen Julius Neubronner, before and during the war years, capturing aerial images when a timer mechanism clicked the shutter. rarehistoricalphotos
Gas attack on the West Front, near St. Quentin 1918—a German messenger dog loosed by his handler. Dogs were used throughout the war as sentries, scouts, rescuers, messengers, and more. rarehistoriaclphotos
“These homing pigeons are doing much to save the lives of our boys in France. They act as efficient messengers and dispatch bearers not only from division to division and from the trenches to the rear”. rarehistoricalphotos
A message is attached to a carrier pigeon by British troops on the Western Front, 1917. rarehistoricalphotos
A messenger dog with a spool attached to a harness for laying out new electric line in September of 1917. rarehistoricalphotos
An Indian elephant, from the Hamburg Zoo, used by Germans in Valenciennes, France to help move tree trunks in 1915. rarehistoricalphotos
Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. rarehistoricalphotos
Turkish cavalry exercises on the Saloniki front, Turkey, March of 1917. rarehistoricalphotos
A carrier pigeon communication school at Namur, Belgium, a dispatch dog fitted with a pigeon basket for transporting carrier pigeons to the front line. rarehistoricalphotos
A dog trained to search for wounded soldiers while under fire, 1915. rarehistoricalphotos
A dog-handler reads a message brought by a messenger dog, who had just swum across a canal in France, during World War I. rarehistoricalphotos
Australian Camel Corps going into action at Sharia near Beersheba, in December of 1917. rarehistoricalphotos
Serbian artillery in action on the Salonika front in December of 1917. rarehistoricalphots
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