Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget

Anzac Day is a day of national remembrance honouring those who served and gave their lives during times of conflict, peacekeeping operations and war. 25 April is also an opportunity to remember the loyalty and sacrifice of the service animals who stood alongside their battalions during these times.

Animals have played a critical role during wartimes for centuries. They’ve provided comfort and inspiration, been guards and mascots, carried messages and hunted enemies. More than 16 million animals served during the First World War. Read on to discover how their contributions to the war effort saved thousands of lives.

Beasts of burden


Image courtesy of The Australian War Memorial

Camels, donkeys, horses and mules transported troops and carried wounded men to safety. They also moved essential ammunition, food, medical supplies and water.

During World War One, more than 136,000 horses joined Australian troops. But at the end of the war, almost all of these horses weren’t able to return to Aussie soil because of quarantine reasons. In fact, just one, named Sandy, made it back home. His owner, Major General Sir William Bridges, had been killed at Gallipoli. After the war, Sandy boarded the freighter Booral, sailing from Liverpool to Melbourne. He spent his well-earned retirement at the Central Remount Depot in Maribyrnong.



Image courtesy of The Australian War Memorial - Mascit of the HMAS Encounter

Cats were used to hunt mice and rats on ships and in the trenches. They also provided companionship. Famous felines included Togo, who was the mascot of battleship HMS Dreadnought, and Pincher, who prowled the decks of HMS Vindex.

There was also battleground cat, Pitouchi, who lived with his Belgian owner, Lieutenant Lekeux in the trenches. Pitouchi allegedly saved Lekeux’s life. According to the story, when enemy soldiers approached Lekeux’s hideout, this remarkable cat jumped out at them, making them think they’d mistaken a cat for a man. They left the area, leaving both owner and cat unharmed.



Image courtesy of The Australian War Memorial

Just like cats, dogs hunted mice and rats during times of conflict. They also carried apparatus and messages, found injured soldiers and unearthed explosives. They even had their own special gas masks.

Probably the most famous dog – and certainly the most decorated – of the First World War was United States Army dog Sergeant Stubby. He was the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment. During his 18 months of service, he took part in 17 battles on the Western Front. His feats included finding and comforting wounded soldiers, catching and holding a German soldier by the seat of his pants and saving his regiment from a surprise mustard gas attack. He made front page news of every major newspaper and met three US presidents.

Feathered friends


Image courtesy of The Australian War Memorial

Birds played various roles during the war. Canaries detected poisonous gas and carrier pigeons messages. In fact, pigeons were the first animals to be given war medals.

Roosters were even used as guard animals. Jack, a rooster chick, was adopted by a group of Australia soldiers in Egypt and he protected them from approaching strangers who entered the unit lines.

Unusual mascots

It wasn’t just cats and dogs who provided comfort during wartime. Bears, foxes, kangaroos, koalas, lions and monkeys were all used to boost morale.

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Guest Monday, 25 September 2017

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  1. The initiative runs in New South Wales only from 24 February to 26 February 2017 inclusive.
  2. The initiative applies to all animals available for adoption at RSPCA NSW shelters, Care Centres and participating Petbarn Adoption Centres only. The initiative does not extend to RSPCA NSW animals offered for adoption through RSPCA Volunteer branches.
  3. Animals adopted during the initiative are subject to availability. Should all available animals be rehomed prior to the end of the initiative, the offer will no longer be honoured. No rainchecks are available.
  4. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer.
  5. RSPCA NSW retains the right to refuse an adoption if it does not comply with standard operational processes.
  6. A maximum of two adoption animals may be adopted by any household.
  7. No animal will be placed on hold for any period. Adoption must be by personal attendance at one of the abovementioned facilities.
  8. Photographic personal identification must be presented at the time of adoption.
  9. A suitable carry cage must be used to transport birds, felines and small animals, including pocket pets, from the premises and during the journey home. If you do not have access to an appropriate carrier, you can purchase a carrier at the time of adopting your companion. Cardboard carriers are available to purchase for $10 from RSPCA shelters and Care Centres while stocks last.
  10. Suitable leads and harnesses must be used to transport canines from the premises. Canines must be appropriately restrained within the vehicle for the journey home. If you do not have access to an appropriate lead and harness, suitable equipment is available for purchase at the time of adoption while stocks last.
  11. Suitable transport for livestock and horses must be considered prior to adoption, and animals must be collected on the day of adoption.
  12. We understand that sometimes, despite your and RSPCA NSW’s best endeavours, your new pet doesn’t settle into your lifestyle. For this reason, you can return any animal to a RSPCA NSW shelter within 21 days from the time of collection to receive a replacement authorisation in accordance with our replacement policy, or a refund of the adoption fee paid. Please note: merchandise purchased cannot be returned as part of the replacement of an animal. Should a product be faulty, you can return that product, in its original condition, to the facility you purchased the merchandise from within seven (7) days and RSPCA NSW will replace that item.