First World War and the animals that suffered due to the folly of man

Remembrance Day is a memorial day observed on 11th November in many countries around the world. For most people the day is significant in that it brings to mind those that died and suffered in the First World War. Originating in Europe it became a global conflict that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to mark the end of hostilities at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. One of the deadliest conflicts in history, it is estimated that it resulted in the death of over nine million combatants and seven million civilians. Many of those who fought in and survived the war rarely spoke of the hardship they had endured or the horror they had witnessed. The experience of gruelling trench warfare and the cruel reality of the terrible slaughter that took place scarred them for life. Some of the last survivors of the awful conflict spent their final years warning future generations against war. As is often the case those that have actually experienced war do not attempt to glorify it.

It was not only humans that suffered in this man made war. During the First World War horses, mules and donkeys were requisitioned from civilians in all parts of Europe. Many suffered horrific deaths from wounds, thirst, starvation, disease, exposure and exhaustion. Eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys were used by all sides and died in the First World War. So whilst we remember the carnage and death suffered by people during this awful conflict, we should also remember the suffering of those animals dragged into the hell of this human made disaster.  In London's Park Lane there is a Memorial to Animals in War constructed in Portland stone and cast bronze, 58ft (17.68m) wide and 55ft (16.76m) deep. It is the work of sculptor David Backhouse. Every year a ceremony and flowers are laid at the memorial.  One such wreath from The London Manx Society (Yn Cheshaght Manninagh Lunnin) had written in Manx Gaelic: ‘Ayns cooinaghtyn jeh shirveish-chaggee ny beiyn oney ooilley as y surranse oc er nyn son. Cha row reih erbee oc’ (In remembrance of the war service of all the innocent animals and their suffering on our behalf. They had no choice). 

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