Whether they were kept as pets, saw active service or played vital roles in the field, these furry friends were an important part of history. More than 16 million animals served in World War I alone, delivering messages, transporting goods or simply providing comfort to men and women thousands of miles away from home.
As well as serving as faithful companions, cats were used in the trenches to catch rats, which could destroy an army’s food supply. However, it would be awhile until these little ones would be doing any hunting.
But cat’s didn’t just serve in the trenches, they were also a common sight on ships, and had free reign to hunt to their heart’s content.
Proving they truly are man’s best friend, dogs have been serving alongside humans in wars since Ancient Egypt. As well as being used as trackers, message carries and attackers, they have also brought comfort to homesick servicemen and women for hundreds of years.
After being rescued from an abandoned foxhole in the New Guinea Jungle, Tiny Smoky (weighing just four pounds) accompanied her owner, Corporal Wynne, through treacherous and primitive conditions. Wynne credits the little Yorkshire Terrier as saving his life on several occasions.
But it wasn’t just cats and dogs, some more unusual pets became mascots of their units. Here, RAF men play with their pet rabbits.
This golden eagle was a pet of a British officer in the Balkans in 1916.
And this fox served as a mascot to an RAF squadron during WWI
Even monkeys played a part at war. They made great companions and several units adopted monkeys as mascots. Here an Australian soldier shares his meal with his furry pal.
One of the most famous animal mascots was Billy de Goat, mascot of the No 609 RAF Squadron. Raised from a kid, he remained with the squadron through all their postings throughout WWII right until victory was declared.
Perhaps the most remarkable story of all is that of Wojtek the bear. After his mother was shot, Wojtek was rescued by a local boy in Iran and sold to a young polish refugee. When he grew too large, she gave him to the Polish army, who instantly fell in love with their new friend. Still a cub, they reared him on condensed milk from a vodka bottle.
As Wojtek grew he enjoyed wrestling, guzzling beer and eating cigarettes! He could even salute to his superior officers.