We remember: Stories of veterans and animals who served

by | Interesting |

This Remembrance Day, join us as we reflect on the sacrifices of our veterans who have served Canada and the courageous animals who stood by their sides in times of war and peace. 

More than just companions 

During wartime, dogs had a number of valuable roles. One role was as mascots and companions to front-line soldiers. In this role they not only gave soldiers hope at the frontlines, but helped to decrease the number of rodents in the trenches by scaring them away. 

Dogs also carried written messages between units, and were employed to lay telephone lines. Spools were laid on the dogs’ backs that would unroll as they moved forward. Dogs could also smell poison gas before soldiers, locate wounded on the battlefield, and carry medical backpacks.  

cat in war
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-000126
Mascots and protectors 

Like dogs, cats served as companions and mascots in wartime. Aboard naval ships cats not only protected food rations from rodents, but also prevented communication lines from being chewed through by rodents. Controlling the rodent population also lessened the spread of disease.  

Cats have been known to detect bombs, with families relying on their cat’s senses to alert them to incoming bombs. Read more about the role of cats in wartime here. 

birds in war
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/
Brave messengers of the skies 

During both World Wars, carrier pigeons delivered messages across the lines. It was a very dangerous job with the enemy always trying to shoot them down. During the First World War, 600 pigeons were used in France alone by the U.S. army. The United Kingdom employed about 250,000 homing pigeons during the Second World War for many purposes, including communicating with spies behind enemy lines.  

Canaries were used in wartime to detect poison gas at the front line. They could also signal a lack of oxygen in the tunnels.  

horses in war
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/
Battling side by side 

During both World Wars, mules carried artillery, and horses transported troops and hauled field guns, among many other roles. Horses and mules were used by the Canadian Army Service Corps to carry mounted troops, panniers, artillery and haul field guns. Visit Veterans Affairs Canada to learn more about how the contributions of animals are forever remembered with the creation of the Animals in War dedication in Ottawa.  

Read more stories of specific horses in wartime here. 

This Remembrance Day, join us in remembering the sacrifice of those who fought for our freedom and the safety of our country. We will never forget.  

Watch this video in remembrance of all of the brave animals who have served for Canada.