Why we wear the Purple Poppy!

“Have you ever gotten exactly what you wanted? It’s hard to imagine that any PlayStation 5 on Christmas morning could beat a pack of cigarettes showing up when you’re stuck in the trenches, but add to it that it’s delivered by an adorable dog. That’s what the soldiers of the 11th Engineers were treated to when Mutt, a YMCA trench runner loaded with ciggies, visited them in 1918 in the Aisne-Marne operation during World War I.” ~ Miranda Summers Lowe

Regiments have kept animals as mascots since the 18th century, with the earliest recorded mascot being that of a goat in the 1775 American War of Independence.

These special animals were not always just mascots that brought good cheer to those brave men and women serving at the front in trenches, on land or at sea. Millions of animals gave their lives in WWI and WWII. Many animals were found to have natural skills and instincts which proved invaluable to the war effort and their display of unwavering courage, even when exposed to extreme conditions, is worth remembering.

During the 1st and 2nd World Wars, dogs were used as scouts, guard dogs and as messengers. They were also used to sniff for mines and deliver supplies to wounded soldiers.

Horses, mules, donkeys, oxen, camels and even elephants were used for heavy labour during WWI and WWII. They were used for constructing roads and railways, or to carry heavy loads across difficult terrain that was unsuitable for motorised transport.

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[Mouse-over the images above for descriptions. Click to enlarge]

Whilst doing research to compile this article, I was positively astounded by the number of very special animals that played such immense and crucial roles in WWI and WWII. Not to mention how they touched the lives of the servicemen and women that they served alongside.

It would be an impossible task to relate all of their stories from across the globe, so here are just a few examples of these courageous companions and often times servicemen in their own right.

Starting on our own South African home front in 1915.

Jackie – 1915

‘Jackie’ One of the most remarkable examples of the intelligence of monkey’s was a Chacma baboon named Jackie, who was probably the only primate in history to reach the exalted rank of corporal in the army – and end up with a war medal.
Jackie was was discovered by Albert Marr on his farm in Villeria, in Pretoria, a few years before the outbreak of the first world war and the two very quickly became attached to each other. Jackie turned out to be exceptionally intelligent and took so readily to training that when Marr joined the Third South African Infantry Regiment he took along his companion as well. He became an instant success with the soldiers, and it wasn’t long before he was made the regimental mascot.
Read the Full Story of ‘Private’ Jackie here!

Nancy – 1915

Most will have heard of our very own ‘Nancy’, but for those that have not, Nancy was a Springbok Antelope mascot of the 4th South African Infantry Regiment, namely the Transvaal Scottish. Nancy began her army career in March 1915, when her owner, Mrs McLaren Kennedy of the farm Vierfontein in the Orange Free State, took her to Potchefstroom. Nancy was the family pet and was just over a year old when Mrs Kennedy volunteered her for war service. It is said that Nancy is the only animal in military history to be accorded full funeral honours and to be buried in an Allied war cemetery. Read the Full Story of Nancy here!

Just Nuisance – 1938

This Great Dane dog was born in Rondebosh in 1937. His owner relocated to Simonstown Naval Base in 1938. Soon Nuisance became very fond of life among the mooring ships at the harbour. He loved boarding the ships and getting in the way of sailors by resting on the gangplanks. He also developed a liking for traveling on the train to and from Cape Town. He soon became the darling of many a sailor, soldier and officer to such an extent that, in August 1939, the Admiralty agreed to enlist him as an ‘ordinary seaman’ to serve as a morale booster for the troops with World War II now in full force. His name was registered as Just Nuisance. Read the Full Story of Just Nuisance here!

Animal Heroes across the globe

Jack – 1910

Edith and her dogs, Jack and Don. Jack is standing. Don disappeared after a year, possibly stolen.

Jack, companion of 1st World War heroine, Nurse Edith Cavell who was famous for helping over 200 Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium. Jack was a stray who Edith picked up in 1910. He became her closest companion, although he was often aggressive towards other people. He must have also had strong herding instincts, because when it was time for the nurses to line up and proceed down the hall for bed, he would follow them and nip their ankles if they walked too slowly. Needless to say, the student nurses were not as fond of Jack as Edith was. Jack however, formed an important part of the underground resistance network in which Edith played a crucial role. Edith would use early morning walks from the hospital with Jack to provide cover for escaping wounded soldiers. She was eventually caught helping English, Belgian, and French soldiers and civilians escape to the Netherlands. Sadly Edith’s efforts to spirit prisoners of war to safety, resulted in her execution by German firing squad in 1915. Jack was rescued by Edith’s friend, Princess Marie de Croy and he lived for another 7 years. After his death, Jack’s body was sent to the Red Cross branch at Edith’s home in Norwich, and he is now part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London, who have kindly loaned him to the Florence Nightingale Museum.

The Imperial Camel Corps

1916 – The Imperial Camel Corps was commanded Brigadier General Clement Leslie Smith VC MC

Camels carried wounded men to safety on the North West Frontier of India. Camels were also used in the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Their ability to carry heavy loads and go without water made them an ideal mode of transport in hot climates.

Colonel TE Lawrence of Arabia commented on the Imperial Camel Corps “Consequently, our Imperial camel Corps had become rapid, elastic, enduring, silent; except when they mounted by numbers, for then the three hundred he-camels would roar in concert, giving out a wave of sound audible miles across the night. Each march saw them more workmanlike, more at home on their animals, tougher, leaner, faster”.

Tirpitz – 1915

Name: Tirpitz
Species: Pig (Sus scrofa domestica)
Dates: 1915-1919
Claim to fame: Survived the sinking of a German cruiser and defected to the British Navy

When the British guns began to fire, the Germans knew the game was up. As SMS Dresden took on water, its crew jumped ship. One of the last to abandon the vessel was a colossal pig, launching herself into the water from the gunwale.
Ratings on HMS Glasgow recovered the pig which, once winched on deck, would become prized as the ship’s living, live-in mascot. In spite of its gender, the men of HMS Glasgow took delight in naming her after the head of the German navy Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz and facetiously awarded her the German military decoration, the Iron Cross, for staying with her ship to the last.
The Western Morning News in 1943 reports how Tirpitz lived on in the ship that saved her life. The HMS Glasgow carried ‘a pair of silver-mounted carvers made from the trotters of a German pig called Tirpitz.’
Tirpitz’s story is truly a remarkable one – of survival against all of the odds. Her celebrity was put to good use in raising £1,785 for charity, a not inconsiderable sum, amounting to £50,000 in today’s money. This pig from Germany, destined for the pot, instead found herself in the South Pacific, mascot to a British warship, owned by members of the British aristocracy, before finding her final resting place in the Imperial War Museum.

Rags – 1918

He had the courage of Sergeant Stubby, and the heart of Rin Tin Tin, but Rags was his own dog. Rags was rescued off the streets of Montmartre in Paris by Sgt James Donovan and Sgt George E. Hickman (shown here, reunited with Rags in 1925), became mascot of the First Division, and trotted into the pages of history.
The first biography of Rags in over eighty years, “From Stray Dog to WWI Hero” tells the incredible true story of the scrappy terrier who, overnight, learned to run life-saving messages, assist in Signal Corps duties, warn of incoming shells, and comfort exhausted doughboys.
Smuggled to the U.S. on a hospital ship, Rags began a new life with Major Raymond W. Hardenbergh, a former staffer to General Pershing, who ensured the terrier’s legacy would never be forgotten.
Half-blind and limping from war wounds, the smallest hero of the Meuse-Argonne was a frequent guest of First Division reunions, honored by General Charles P. Summerall and other Division commanders. Rags’s contributions to the American war effort were celebrated right up to his death, age 20, in 1936, when he was described by Major General Frank Parker as “an outstanding example of devotion… Rags was a real soldier dog.”

Mutt – 1918

At the start of this collection of tales of tails, mention was of Mutt.
Meet Mutt, the ‘very good boy’ who brought cigarettes to soldiers in the trenches of WW1. Soldiers of the 11th Engineers were treated to cigarettes when the trench running dog visited them in 1918 in the Aisne-Marne operation.

“Mutt knew the uniform of the day and wore it with pride, as the photos clearly show his jaunty cravat proudly displaying the YMCA logo. And while it’s mission first, he takes time to get some well-earned trench scratches while the doughboys pass out a carton of cigarettes, no doubt providing a morale boost.” ~ Miranda Summers Lowe

Sergeant Stubby – 1918

Sergeant Stubby (1916 – March 16, 1926) was the unofficial mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment (United States) and was assigned to the 26th Division in World War I. Stubby was described as a Boston Terrier or “American bull terrier” mutt.
Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry Regiment in the trenches in France for 18 months and participated in four offensives and 17 battles. He entered combat on February 5, 1918, at Chemin des Dames, north of Soissons, and was under constant fire, day and night for over a month. In April 1918, during a raid to take Seicheprey, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg by retreating Germans throwing hand grenades. He was sent to the rear for convalescence and, as he had done on the front, improved morale. When he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches.
In his first year of battle, Stubby was injured by mustard gas. After he recovered, he returned with a specially designed gas mask to protect him. He thus learned to warn his unit of mustard gas attacks, locate wounded soldiers in no man’s land, and since he could hear the whine of incoming artillery shells before humans, became very adept at alerting his unit when to duck for cover. He was solely responsible for capturing a German spy in the Argonne, leading to their unit’s commander nominating Stubby for the rank of sergeant. Following the retaking of Château-Thierry by the U.S., women of the town made Stubby a chamois coat upon which his many medals were pinned. He was later injured again, in the chest and leg by a grenade. He ultimately had two wound stripes. At the end of the war, Robert Conroy smuggled Stubby home. In 1926, Stubby the canine would pass away as the most highly decorated and honored dog in United States History. Stubby’s remains are in the Smithsonian Institution.

The PDSA Dickin Medal

The Dickin medal is recognised as the animals’ Victoria Cross. It was named after Maria Dickin CBE, animal welfare pioneer, who founded the PDSA in 1917, formerly known as the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Between 1943 and 1949, 54 animals received the medal, including 32 pigeons, 18 dogs and 3 horses.

Antis 1940 to 1945

In 1949, Antis the Alsatian was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for serving in the French Air Force and RAF from 1940 to 1945 in North Africa and England, and for bravery in conflict and devotion to his master.

Air Dog Antis flew in Wellington bombers with his master, Czech Airman Vaclav Bozdech and was regarded as the crew’s lucky mascot. On one mission Antis was badly injured when the plane came under enemy attack but he remained calm under fire and an inspiration to the men. Antis and Bozdech survived the war and many other adventures where the dog saved his master’s life.

Rip – 1941

Rip was a stray dog adopted by the Poplar ARP (Air Raid Precautions) in east London during the Second World War. During the Blitz, he helped locate people and animals buried in the debris after an air raid, 5 August 1941.
Rip as he helps unearth a victim of the Blitz whilst his handler, Mr King, looks on. In 1945 Rip received the Dickin Medal for locating many victims of the air-raids during The Blitz.
Rip and an ARP Warden survey the scene of devastation following an air raid in Latham Street, Poplar. The bomb crater is full of water.

Brian – 1944

In 1947, Brian, also known as Bing, was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal.

A ‘qualified paratrooper’, Brian served with the 13th Battalion Airborne Regiment. During his career, he completed seven parachute jumps. As the D-Day landings began on 7th June 1944, Brian was parachuted into the Normandy town of Ranville. He fought side by side with fellow paratrooper, Sergeant Ken Bailey, as the Allies pushed on towards Berlin. Despite sustaining minor injuries when one of his jumps didn’t go to plan, Brian continued to perform his sniffer dog and sentry duties with distinction. The final airborne assault of the war, Operation Varsity, involved thousands of aircraft and 16,000 Allied paratroopers pushing to cross the Rhine into the German heartlands. It was Brian’s last jump before the war was over and he eventually reunited with the Fetch family back in the UK, who had donated him to the war effort!

Staff Sergeant Reckless 1948 – May 13, 1968

She also became the first horse in the Marine Corps known to have participated in an amphibious landing, and following the war was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, inclusion in her unit’s Presidential Unit Citations from two countries, and other military honors.

She served in numerous combat actions during the Korean War, carrying supplies and ammunition, and was also used to evacuate wounded. Learning each supply route after only a couple of trips, she often traveled to deliver supplies to the troops on her own, without benefit of a handler. The highlight of her nine-month military career came in late March 1953 during the Battle for Outpost Vegas when, in a single day, she made 51 solo trips to resupply multiple front line units. Reckless was taught battlefield survival skills and even learned to run for a bunker when she heard the cry “incoming!” She often slept in the tents of her comrades in the Anti-Tank Division of the 5th Marines, and ate in the mess tent with them. She was wounded in combat twice and was given the battlefield rank of corporal in 1953 and then a battlefield promotion to sergeant in 1954, several months after the war ended. She was retired and brought to the United States after the war.

Heroic Horses, Hounds, wee and NOT so wee Beasties

A sergeant of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps bandages the wounded ear of ‘Jasper’, a mine-detecting dog at Bayeux in Normandy, 5 July 1944.
Thorn’ battled through smoldering debris and thick smoke to help locate and rescue air-raid casualties trapped within a burning building during the Blitz in WWII. He was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal on March, 2, 1945.
‘Beauty’ with Mr Bill Barnett was awarded the Dickin Medal on Jan, 2, 1945 for helping to locate buried air raid victims while serving with a PDSA Rescue Squad during WW 2.
‘Kiri’ and ‘Many’ were circus elephants in Hamburg, Germany. During WW2 their strength was mobilised by local authorities to clear the wreckage resulting from Allied bombing raids. Kiri and Many continued to clear up bomb damage after the war ended. This photograph of the two moving a wrecked car was taken 6 months after the German surrender. 1945.
Olga, Upstart and Regal, three police horses were awarded the Dickin Medal in 1947. This was for their time on patrol duty in London on separate occasions during the war. After being showered with debris when a flying bomb exploded nearby, Upstart (above centre) was praised for quietly staying on duty with his rider controlling traffic until the incident had been dealt with.
Pigeon USA43SC6390, also known as ‘GI Joe’, was a USA Army Pigeon in WW2. Making a 20-mile flight in the same number of minutes, he brought a message which saved the lives of at least 100 Allied soldiers from being bombed by their own planes. GI Joe was awarded the Dickin Medal in 1946.

Memorable Mascots

The fox cub mascot of No. 32 Squadron pictured at Humieres Aerodrome, St Pol, France in May 1918, on the fuselage of a Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a biplane.
Sailors surround the ship’s cat “Convoy” asleep in a miniature hammock on board HMS HERMIONE, Gibraltar, 26 November 1941.
Venus the bulldog mascot of the British destroyer HMS VANSITTART, 1941.
Winston Churchill stops ‘Blackie’, ship’s cat of HMS PRINCE OF WALES, crossing over to a US destroyer during the Atlantic Conference, August 1941.
The Irish Guards’ Band Drummer Boy at Waterford Barracks standing with the regiments’s mascot, ‘Turloch Mor’ an Irish Wolfhound, February 21, 1917.
Wing Commander J E ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, commanding No. 144 (Canadian) Wing, on the the wing of his Spitfire Mk IX with his Labrador ‘Sally’, at Bazenville, Normandy, 31 July 1944.
Flight Sergeant James Hyde of San Juan, Trinidad, a Spitfire pilot who arrived in Britain in 1942 to begin his training, here pictured in 1944 with his Squadron’s mascot, a dog called ‘Dingo’.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Sir Bernard Montgomery & his dog ‘Rommel’, in Normandy at Montgomery’s caravan at his headquarters at Chateau Creully, 7 August 1944.
This photo, taken a few days after the death of George S. Patton (December 21, 1945 in Germany), shows his faithful dog Willie, lying next to the General’s personal belongings. The legendary Commander of the U.S. Third Army absolutely loved his white bull terrier who followed him everywhere. Shortly after this photo was taken, Willie was taken to the United States and spent the rest of his life with General Patton’s wife and daughters.

And it for these special creatures, big and small, that we wear The Purple Poppy!
This next Remembrance Day, let us spare more than just a thought for the animals that served!

The official S.A. Legion Purple Poppy is available from The Jock Shop.

“This article is dedicated to our own, very special Mrs Rissem (Mrs RSM), Susan Wright. Firstly for her love of animals and the many she has rescued, often in appalling condition, and has taken into the Wright Family home where they have been nursed back to health and gone on to spend many years of health and loving companionship (often taking over the sofa and bed too). And then for Susan’s tireless efforts in collecting funds and pet food for various animal welfare organisations over the years.”

At the Transvaal Scottish Regimental Association Annual Luncheon on June, 25th, 2022, members and guests generously donated R1700 in cash, 220kg of dog kibbles, 61 cans, 8 blankets and 2 boxes of treats.

A delighted staff member of Animal Allies accepts delivery of the food that was donated at the luncheon. Supervised here by our Association President, Mr Bob Prince, our Chairman, Mr Trevor Wright and our Treasurer, Mr John Hopkins.

We thank you all for your generous donations to Animal Allies.

Animal Allies, a registered Non-Profit Organisation (NPO 095505), was started in January 2010.
To date they have sterilized, vaccinated and dewormed over 11702 dogs and cats that won’t be contributing to the overpopulation crisis. Every animal guardian has been educated and now knows that help is just a phone call away. Animal Allies has a fully equipped mobile clinic on the road. This allows them to help so many more animals and do all the treatments and surgeries on the door steps of their patients, many of whom would otherwise continue the cycle of breeding unwanted puppies and kittens which inevitably end up being abused, in shelters and having to be euthanized.

We urge you to continue to support Animal Allies. To do so, please do the following:

Visit the Animal Allies website!
Click the image above to donate directly via their secure payment portal.

Or contact Susan via email if you would like to drop off Dog and Cat food when you next visit us at The View.

Members that attended the luncheon will remember Tracey Joy Christie. We’d like to thank Tracey who works tirelessly for various animal charities and ensures that the money and food donations go to the most deserving animal welfare organisations. To find out more about Tracey and the work she does, this is the link to her [social media page] and her [lifewithSheldonANDMackey].

Article Sources & Credits:

Other sources which you may find are of interest to you.

  • [Video – British Pathé War Archives – The Forgotten Army of WWI: Tribute to Animals
    Millions of animals gave their lives in WWI and this film pays tribute to that. The animals’ natural skills and instincts proved invaluable in the war and their display of unwavering courage even when exposed to extreme conditions inspires.
  • [Book – Elephant Bill – by J.H. Williams Though he was officially known as Lt. Colonel J.H. Williams, the author was known to the world at large as “Elephant Bill”. That is because he spent 25 years living with the elephants in the mountains and forests of Burma. There he trained them to haul teak logs out of the isolated jungles. Yet this is also a story of great courage because when the Second World War struck, it also came to Burma]
  • [Social Media Page – Book – War Horses of Cairo]
  • [Social Media Page – Book – Hero Dog Muggins]
  • [Article – Even Animals Needed Gas Masks in World War I]
  • [Article – Horse power first world war]

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