The Animals in War exhibition was set up to commemorate all the animals who served during wars who won the PDSA Dickin Medal which included horses, dogs, pigeons and even a cat!
16 million animals served in World War One: dogs and 100,000 pigeons were used to carry messages, mules moved around the artillery and eight million horses died in the conflict. The Devil’s Porridge Museum currently has an exhibition on display which details and commemorates their contribution to human conflicts.
Animals have been used in warfare since time immemorial. Julius Caesar commented on the use of mastiffs in battle by the Britons in 55BC. In 1943, Maria Dickin, the founder of the PDSA animal charity created the Dickin Medal for animals who made significant contributions in warfare. This has been awarded to 31 dogs, 32 messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat. Inscribed on the medal is the legend, ‘They also served’. There was a talk at the Museum on the PDSA and the Dickin Medal on Tuesday 5th November at 7pm and all of the proceeds were donated to the PDSA.
One of the most famous horses in modern conflict was Warrior, ‘The horse the Germans could not kill’ (whose story formed the basis for the book War Horse). Warrior served in the Canadian Cavalry in World War One and was involved in the First Battle of Ypres and the Battle of the Somme. He posthumously received an honorary Dickin Medal on behalf of all animals who served in World War One.
The Museums Exhibition also explores the story of Wojtek, the bear who served at the Battle of Monte Cassino, Simon the cat who was recognised for his rat catching skills and Gander a Newfoundland dog who stopped skirmishes by barking at his enemies!
On Saturday November 9th at 3pm, The Devils Porridge Museum held an Animals in War remembrance event at the memorial outside the Museum. People brought their pets, there were pigeons and horses (some with historical First World War cavalry re-enactors and their equipment). The Museum also had purple poppies available by donations for people to wear as brooches and animals to wear on their collars. The short service at the event was led by young people, many of whom curated the exhibition.