Looking for inspiration for this week's post , I was reminded that animals also went to war and during WW1 over 16 million animals were involved in the war effort. Some for communication, others for transport and many just for the comfort of companionship.
I found this excellent article on the Imperial War Museum Website which illustrates just how special animals were to those on active service.
And to be honest, I had never thought about the role of animals in WW1, of course, I knew that horses featured very heavily, but then I discovered that dogs and cats were used to hunt rats in the trenches. And of course, there were the carrier pigeons who were so vital to communication and who could get messages back from the front line to headquarters very effectively.
There is no doubt that animals had a very special psychological effect on those who faced extreme horror and there are stories of communication dogs being treated as pets and given extra rations when they spent time in the trenches.
This poem could be about one of those special dogs...
The Turkish Trench Dog
Night held me as I crawled and scrambled near
The Turkish lines. Above, the mocking stars
Silvered the curving parapet, and clear
Cloud-latticed beams o'erflecked the land with bars;
I, crouching, lay between
Tense-listening armies peering through the night,
Twin giants bound by tentacles unseen
Here in dim-shadowed light
I saw him, as a sudden movement turned
His eyes towards me, glowing eyes that burned
A moment ere his snuffling muzzle found
My trail; and then as serpents mesmerise
He chained me with those unrelenting eyes,
That muscle-sliding rhythm, knit and bound
In spare-limbed symmetry, those perfect jaws
And soft-approaching pitter-patter paws.
Nearer and nearer like a wolf he crept —
That moment had my swift revolver leapt —
But terror seized me, terror born of shame
Brought flooding revelation. For he came
As one who offers comradeship deserved,
An open ally of the human race,
And sniffling at my prostrate form unnerved
He licked my face!
Geoffrey Dearmer served with the London Regiment at Gallipolli and on the Western Front.
His poetry emphasises the starkness and brutality of war.