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Animals in War by Jilly Cooper

By Jilly Cooper

Jilly Cooper has written a tribute to the position of animals in wartime. From the pigeons sporting very important messages to and from the beleaguered urban in the course of the Seige of Paris to canines sniffing out mines for the British invasion strength in global conflict II. A shiny list of man's inhumanity to animals, and an astounding tale of braveness.

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Fortunately too where animals are concerned, comedy is never far away either. ’ As I type this introduction, my two dogs sleep sleekly beneath the table, and a large black cat purrs in my In tray. Across the valley, cows and sheep graze safely in the fields, and among them two beautiful slightly muddy grey horses suddenly kick up their heels and, full of the joy of life, break into a gallop, manes and tails streaming. This is how animals should live, not dragged, terrified and suffering, into our human conflicts.

A spurt of mud told me it was all over. Having struggled up to the line, the teams had then to stagger back for another load: men and horses, plastered from head to foot with yellow stinking mud, often bearing hideous wounds, and using the carcasses of dead animals and humans as stepping stones under a bombardment that could even be heard across the channel in the Kentish ports. The chief enemy, in fact, was never the Germans with their shot and shell, but the terrible weather and appalling conditions.

March 24: First night of shelling, horses picketed out in very swampy field. Rode big bay mare, ran away with me, terrified of running into motor lorry, steered for the ditch, she stopped. I came off. Sometimes, too, the soldiers felt the veterinary officers made very wrong decisions. In Animal World, the RSPCA printed a letter from some Royal Field Artillery officers describing their departure to France in 1916: At Southampton, we lost our dear Sailor, our prize horse, who caught the veterinary officer’s eye, who insisted he was too old, too thin and unfit for service.

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