Throughout history, in war and in peacetime, animals and mankind have worked alongside each other. As beasts of burden, messengers, protectors, mascots, and friends, these war animals have demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans. The bond is unbreakable, their sacrifice great – we should honour the animals of war.
It is estimated that approximately 400,00 horses have left Australian shores to war only one was ever returned. Even one of our most famous animal icons Simpsons Donkey was never brought home. Thousands of other donkeys and Mules have served the colours none ever came home. During more recent wars all 11 dogs in Vietnam were left on our enemies shores as we withdrew. The very first Australian war animals to be returned was as late as 1993 from Somalia, today Military dogs are serving in the front lines of Afghanistan saving diggers lives by detecting roadside bombs whilst equines are carrying supplies in mountainous terrain for our troops.
Currently within the ADF the use of animals in fact is on the increase as opposed to decline. This is primarily due to Military Working Dogs (MWD) and Specialist Explosive search dogs being used to combat Terrorist activities in both Homeland Defence and offensive operations. These units include the Engineers, Military Police and RAAF MWD teams. There are also several official Regimental Mascots within the ADF.
Military mascots have been of great morale value to Australian soldiers from the trenches of WWI to dogs adopted by the ADF in Afghanistan today. There are two types of military mascots, one of which are those which appear particularly in Commonwealth Forces as part of the Regiment's official history and are part of that Regiment’s order of battle, with service rank and number. In the ADF such animals are Stan the Ram of 8/9 RAR, Sgt Courage an eagle of 2 Cavalry Regiment and many more. The other type of mascot, and more usually a dog, is the unofficial mutt which many a soldier has adopted in situ as a companion. Some ADF troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have befriended local animals as a way to help cope with the emotional hardships they endure every day while deployed in a war zone.
There are many other creatures great and small that have served the Australian defence forces.
- A message from the Australian War Animals Memorial Organisation
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