As a nation Canada's first overseas war had been the Second South African War (the Boer War) in 1899; Canada sent troops but the country was bitterly divided along political and provincial lines about joining the conflict. At the outset Sir Wilfred Laurier, the Prime Minister at the time, sent 1000 soldiers to support the Mother Land; ultimately over 7000 Canadians were to serve in that far away war and 267 were to die.
Confederation Park in Ottawa was erected within months of the end of the conflict. But it took almost a century (2012) before another troop of heroes from the Boer War and their successors in the First and Second World Wars were to be remembered: the animals in war.
Canadian Expeditionary Force was as volunteer army - conscription was not introduced until 1917 - and first wave of men left Val Cartier in October of 1914 eager to fight "the hun". Along with them went dogs, horses and mules to once again give support.
For centuries, animals have demonstrated an enduring partnership with humans during times of war.They have served as means of transportation, beasts of burden, messengers, protectors and mascots.Still today, dogs use their unique, sharply tuned instincts to detect mine clusters, and conduct search and rescue operations. We remember the contribution and sacrifice of all animals.
Relentless shelling in the First World War (1914-1918) left huge craters of mud and sewage. Horses and mules could best navigate these difficult conditions to supply the front and evacuate the wounded.
At the high school I attended in Winnipeg, there was a large World War I depiction, a painting that hung on the walls. One image was etched indelibly into my mind: teams of horses and mules, eyes inflamed with fear, straining on their harness as they and their human comrades, with their shoulder to the wheel, struggled to free supply wagons stuck in shell holes full of mud.Lloyd Swick
Animals in War Dedication Project
Horses carried soldiers, and pulled gun carriages, supply wagons and ambulances. Many paid the ultimate price and their loss was mourned by those they served.
|This detail is modeled after a painting by Fortunino Matania: |
Goodbye Old Man
There was another painting that hung on that high school wall which was stunning in the emotion it evoked – it remained in my mind throughout all these years. It has served as an inspiration for the design of the War Animals Dedication Project.
An artist, Fortunio Matania, had been sent to Menin, Belgium to capture the meaning of war. This portrayal was the result. Aptly entitled “Goodbye Old Friend,” it showed a gunner knelt down, holding the head of his horse in his lap, bidding his comrade farewell. The horse is mortally wounded and awaits death. Imagine the anguish felt by the gunner, being forced to shoot his companion with whom he shared the hardships of war; a companion with whom he had developed a close bond of friendship, trust, loyalty and admiration. I had read one account of war, where an entire battery, about 150 strong, filed by and kissed their dying horse. Obviously the horse must have been loved and served the battery faithfully over the years.
Lloyd SwickAnimals in War Dedication Project
A click on the image below will take you to the website of the Animals in War Dedication which has a wealth of information and stories of the "Beasts of War".
August 4 - 70: The destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.