By Jilly Cooper
Jilly Cooper has written a tribute to the position of animals in wartime. From the pigeons wearing important messages to and from the beleaguered urban in the course of the Seige of Paris to canine sniffing out mines for the British invasion strength in international struggle II. A vibrant list of man's inhumanity to animals, and an striking tale of braveness.
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This painting, captioned, ‘Goodbye, Old Man’, was used to raise funds for Animal Relief in the USA. The original is by the well-known war artist Fortunino Matania. IWM The other great band of fairy godmothers to the warhorse was once again the RSPCA. Immediately war was declared in 1914, the Society offered its services to the War Office in any way that might be useful. The offer was abruptly turned down on the grounds that the organization of the AVC was so complete that no outside assistance was needed.
For four appalling months, from July to October, veterinary officers sent increasingly desperate telegrams every day, and impotently watched the maddened horses slowly dying of starvation and so desperate that many of them ate their own droppings. By the time supplies finally began to filter through in November, many thousands of horses had died or been destroyed. Gassed horses receiving treatment at No. 5 Veterinary Hospital, Abbeville, 1916. ’ But there is no doubt of the invaluable part played by the AVC in winning the war.
On this treadmill what rest could he get? Many fell never to rise again. IWM A view of the shell-cratered ground over which troops and animals of both sides had to cross. Passchendaele, October 1917. A typical shell hole is in the foreground. IWM Matters would have been better if he had been given warm food and plenty of it, but in that first winter, and often later in the war, fodder was desperately short, with no overhead hay nets; so whatever there was, was trampled into the mud or blew away.