|Dogs on the Western Front (Vanity Fair, 1916)|
We are happy to say that in the course of performing our daily duties, the scanning and posting of historic magazine articles, no dogs were harmed in any way; but sadly no such boast can be made by any participant of the Great War. Published during the bloodiest year of that conflict, this VANITY FAIR MAGAZINE article lists a good many of the particular services dogs were trained to perform on behalf of their belligerent masters.
"The French war dogs are divided into five classes, each of which performs a special type of work. There are sentinel dogs, patrol dogs, ambulance dogs, dispatch dogs and drought dogs. In all these departments of military activity they have proved their worth."
The Red-Cross Dogs of the Great War (Literary Digest, 1917)
A fascinating, two page article that does not simply confine itself to the issue of dogs in the service of the Red-Cross, but also makes mention of the many assorted responsibilities assigned to dogs in many of the combatant armies of the First World War:
"There are canine sentries on duty on both sides in the Great War, and dogs that are dispatch-bearers. "Marquis", a French dog, fell from a bullet-wound almost at the feet of a group of French soldiers to whom he bore a message across a shell-raked stretch of country. But the message was delivered!"
The Expatriot Horses of World War I (American Legion Monthly, 1936)
"I have read many interesting stories about heroes of the war and interesting accounts of pigeons, and police dogs, etc., but very little about the horses that served...Many of them were taken prisoner by the Germans, taken back into Germany and exhibited in their American harnesses and equipment. After the war, immediate plans were made to return the American men to their native country, but the equine warriors were forgotten..."
This article is about the 32 American horses that were captured in the war and never repatriated.
Carrier Pigeons on Land and Sea (American Legion Weekly, 1919)
Illustrated with images of maimed and disfigured carrier pigeons, this article is filled with interesting lore of the battles waged by the 'feathered aviators' of the 1914 - 1918 war. You will read about how the pigeons were often dyed black so as to be mistaken for crows; how they were used at sea and at Verdun and that spies relied upon them.
"Pigeons are not new to war. It is on record that the Romans and Greeks used them and that Hannibal carried a cote crossing the Alps in order to send word back to Carthage of his progress...it was a pigeon which first announced to an anxious London the victory at Waterloo."
During the course of World War II the U.s Army signal Corps deployed more than 50,000 pigeons.
It was said that the carrier pigeons of W.W. II were ten percent stronger.
The Elephant on the Western Front (Der Welt Spiegel, 1915)
Animals have played important rolls in war from the beginning and World War One was no exception. Throughout the war the widespread use of dogs, horses mules and pigeons are all well documented and there have been some very interesting books written on the topic. Not so well documented is the presence of this one elephant who, being loyal to the Kaiser, is pictured in this 1915 photograph toiling away on behalf of his German masters in occupied France. The story has it that the beast was presented as a gift to the German Army by the patriotic owner of a popular circus.
It is a curious picture which leaves us with many questions, however judging by the amount of intact buildings seen in the background and the entire lack of weaponry it can be assumed that the elephant was kept far away from the front; but why is there a sailor on his back when they are so far from the sea? Adding to the queer, Twilight Zone atmosphere of the image, there casualy stands the German folk poet Ludwig Ganghofer to the far right.
Further Reading: War Elephants
The Elephant on the British Home Front (Popular Mechanics, 1917)
We are told that this unique picture could only have been snapped in the more eccentric parts of Britain during the Great War and that it serves as graphic proof that the farm labor shortage was as dire as the farmers declared that it was.
Please keep in mind that the event photographed herein was entirely unique to the years 1914 through 1918, and that this agricultural practice cannot be found in the Britain of today...