When I was in London in the summer I found myself in Oxford Street with a couple of hours to spare. After popping into some of the shops I made my way up to Hyde Park to take a photograph of Speaker's Corner. Upon looking at the map I noticed that marked on it was something called the 'Animals in War Memorial'. Intrigued I went off to have a look at it.
It is actually located just outside Hyde Park on Park Lane. The simple idea behind it is to commemorate all the animals that have served, suffered and died alongside British, Commonwealth and Allied troops during conflicts in the 20th century.
The memorial was inspired by Jilly Copper's 1983 book Animals in War. Although Cooper is best known for your romantic fiction books she is also an animal lover and wrote a book detailing the role of animals in wartime. Cooper was made co-trustee of the fund that was put together to raise the £2 million required to finance the memorial. The memorial was officially opened by Princess Anne on 24th November 2004.
The sculptor of the memorial was David Backhouse. It includes four free standing bronzes - two mules, a horse and a dog plus the main feature of the 70ft long Portland stone wall carved with an assortment of the animals who served. As well as the equine animals, dogs and pigeons, the war effort over the years has been assisted by elephants, camels, oxen, bullocks, cats, canaries and even glow worms.
On the front under 'Animals in War' there are two separate inscriptions. The first reads:
“This monument is dedicated to all the animals
that served and died alongside British and allied forces
in wars and campaigns throughout time.”
Below it is a shorter but still very poignant inscription:
“They had no choice.”
On the back of the wall is another inscription expanding on the main one on the front:
“Many and various animals were employed to support British and Allied Forces in wars and campaigns over the centuries, and as a result millions died. From the pigeon to the elephant, they all play a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom.
Their contribution must never be forgotten.”
This Sunday, 13th November 2016, there will a Remembrance Service at 3pm at the Animals in War Memorial.