This Remembrance Day marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. Over 650,000 men and women from Canada served in this war, with 66,000 of those making the ultimate sacrifice. That is one in ten people who never returned home to their loved ones.
Working alongside these brave men and women were animals. Animals had a significant role in the First World War (and wars since). Mules hauled ammunition over treacherous terrain, as did horses who also carried troops. Dogs were used as messengers, bomb detectors, and for search and rescue missions. Carrier pigeons delivered messages to specific destinations and were said to be the most dependable way of sending a message during the war. Collected in jars, Glowworms provided much needed light in the trenches for officers to study battle maps and soldiers to read their letters from home. From these examples alone, it is easy to recognize the importance of animals in war.
In fact, the role of animals in war is so significant that in 2012 the Animals in War Dedication was created. This monument is located in Confederation Park in Ottawa, and is symbolically situated next to the South African War Memorial. This location is symbolic because Canada supplied 50,000 horses for that war. It is important to remember the brave women, men and animals who serve in war so their sacrifice is not forgotten.
We encourage you to discuss the role animals have in war, with your students. Below are resources and activities that will help with that discussion.
From Veterans Affairs Canada, the Remembrance Clubhouse animals participate in the Heritage Fair and present projects on Canadian military history. Divide your class into six groups. Assign one of the Remembrance Clubhouse friends to each group. Have groups research the story that goes with their character. Each group can share what they learned with the class.
With your class, go through the photos and discuss what emotions each photo evoked. Did seeing a particular animal surprise you? Have students pick an animal in the video and research the role it played in war. What special quality does the animal have that allows it to do its role? Create a collage or poster and share it with the class.
In this short video, Lloyd Swick, Canadian War Veteran and Project Initiator for Animals in War Dedication Project discusses the importance of animals in war and why he thought Canada should have a monument of national significance. Why is it important to honour animals who serve in war? Do you think the monument portrays what it was intended to portray? Are there other monuments dedicated to animals that you know of? Have students create/draw their own monument dedicated to service animals.
John, a K9 handler in Afghanistan recounts his experience working with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the deep bond he shared with his canine partner. What other jobs can dogs have? Have students research other types of service dogs/animals and the role they play.