Horses, camels, donkeys, even elephants, have been used for both transportation
of personnel, equipment as well as food, water, and medical supplies.
Pigeons have been used for communication and photographic
intelligence, canaries were used to detect poisonous gas, and even rats and
pigs have been used in various specialised military functions.
And notably, dogs have played a role in a wide variety of military
purpose, in particular these days focussing on guarding and bomb detection.
With this coming weekend commemorating the Centenary of Armistice,
lets focus on the Animals of War from the First World War.
According to the Imperial War Museums (IWM), it states that over
16 million animals served during World War I, and their main tasks were
transportation, communication, and most importantly companionship.
Not all animals were employed to work, but some were kept as pets
and mascots to raise morale and provide comfort amidst the hardships of war.
And, two animals that today’s motion highlights, outlines both the
companionship and the war service of Digger, the War Dog, and Bill the Bastard.
Digger, the War Dog, was a brown and white bulldog, who devoted himself to Sergeant James Harold Martin (from Hindmarsh in South Australia), during his three and half years with the AIF during World War I.
Their story is of true mateship, embodying
the ANZAC spirit.
Digger was a stray dog that attached himself
to soldiers on their way down to the troopships in Melbourne.
The 1st Division immediately
adopted him as a mascot and Digger sailed with them to war on the 20th
During Digger’s remarkable service, official
records identify that he ‘went over the top 16 times’ during some of the worst
battles of Gallipoli, and the Western Front.
He was wounded and gassed at Pozieres in 1916, shot through the
jaw – losing three teeth – was blinded in the right eye and lost hearing in his
Despite these experiences, at the sound of a gas alarm, it was
reported that Digger would rush to his nearest human companion to have his gas
There were also occasions when Digger
delivered food to wounded men stranded in no man’s land, sometimes bringing
back written messages.
Sergeant Martin returned to Australia on the
12 May 1918 and was discharged medically unfit.
Digger accompanied him due to strict
quarantine regulations, and they remained in Sydney.
Digger sadly died on the 24 May 1919.
In 2017, the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation
(AWAMO), a not-for-profit, raised awareness of the bravery shown by all war
animals by establishing a memorial at West Croydon/Kilkenny RSL to commemorate
Digger’s unique and incredible story.
The memorial was unveiled on the 29 October 2017.
To celebrate the companionship between Digger and Martin,
and to commemorate their service, a children’s book was written by John Gillam
and Yvonne Fletcher, titled ‘A Tail of Two Diggers’.
The book narrates the service and sacrifice these two
endured, and also allows the reader to understand the indicators and impact
that untreated Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) has on its sufferers.
It is incredibly important that children are made aware
of the wounds inflicted upon our brave service men and women, both visible and
And, Bill the Bastard, the other Australian story of war
animal and soldier companionship.
Bill was an Australian-bred waler, described
as powerful, intellectual with unmatched courage.
In performance and character, he stood above
the other 200, 000 Australian horses sent to the Middle East in the Great War.
Bill could only be ridden by one-man, Major
Michael Shanahan – any other soldier was bucked off, and seen to ‘hit the
The story between Bill and Major Shanahan is
of great mateship, as they depended on each other for survival, with Bill’s
heroic efforts and exceptional instincts in battle, saving Shanahan and four of
his men on one occasion.
Bill became a legend, a symbol of the courage
and unbreakable will of the ANZAC mounted force. And his name, Bill the Bastard, was a sense
A book was written by Roland Perry, titled
‘Bill the Bastard: The Story of Australia’s Greatest War Horse’, highlighting
the importance of the service of our war animals.
Both Digger and Bill were honoured with a
Blue Cross for their service earlier this year.
The Blue Cross is a not for profit UK
organisation, which was established in 1897, and was established to collect
donations assisting horses on the frontline and to provide vital veterinary services
to animals on the battlefields.
The Blue Cross ensures that during
commemorative ceremonies that brave men, women and animals who have fought and
died in conflict are honoured and acknowledged.
The Australian War Animal Memorial
Organisation (AWAMO) stated in a recent media release that they will be
responsible for the administration and award nomination process for Australian
and New Zealand animals eligible for the Blue Cross Award.
I commend the Honourable Frank Pangello for bringing this motion to the Chamber, and for allowing Honourable Members to make a contribution to our military animals.
Lest we forget.