Animals in War

As Australians, our thoughts go to Simpson and his Donkey when we think of animals in war. However there are many other animal stories to tell. At the time of the First World War, horses did much of the work now done by machines.

War Horses
Image courtesy of Shrine of Remembrance

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne has a war horse trough commemorating the service of more than 100,000 horses in the First World War. It  was relocated to the site in the 1980s.

Some years ago, the AWM developed a family exhibition, A is for Animals: An A-Z of Animals in War. Although the exhibition has now closed, the accompanying publication, M is for Mates, is an excellent stand alone teaching resource. It is a great starting point to learn about the service responsibilities of animals as well as their role as mascots and in maintaining the wellbeing and morale of servicemen.


The booklet is aesthetically appealing and like the exhibition suitable for a young audience. It follows the alphabetical theme, so is interdisciplinary for preschoolers and early primary students. In has a diverse range of images and objects from the AWMs collection and provides a great starting point for adults and teens to do further research.









A hard copy of the book is available from the AWM for $22.95. Alternatively, a PDF is available at this link via DVA’s Anzac Portal. The portal contains too many fantastic resources to review on its own, so I will continue to pull out some of my favourite individual resources. Feel free to head over and check it out if you wish.

If you are interested in other stories of animals in war, you may want to check out War Horse by Michael Morpurgo which was turned into a film in 2011. There are also a number of children’s story books that tell the story of Simpson and his Donkey. I do not have a lot of experience with these but hear that Simpson and his Donkey by Mark Greenwood is popular.

There are a lot of different rumours about what happened to the First World War horses at the end of the war. You can learn more about what really happened here.


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