Why do people wear purple poppies?
A: To commemorate and remember animals who served during wartime. And the animals have their own special day. In Australia the National Day for War Animals is February 24th, just over two weeks away.
I first became interested in wartime mascots when I was researching Lighthouse Girl, the first book in my ‘Light’ series. The WWI animal photographs fascinated me and led to me writing, Light Horse Boy. This second war story links to Sandy, the only Australian horse to return from The Great War. Over the years I’ve enjoyed learning more about Sandy and hope that plans to create a memorial to him in Tallangatta will eventuate.
In the years surrounding the 100 year commemoration of WWI, publishers released many linked children’s books. A large number of these titles featured animals, giving children a buffer to a challenging theme via a familiar creature. Horses and dogs were especially popular.
Some of these war titles were based on a true story, other books used fictitious animals to soften war themes. My own Light Horse Boy does both. The Sandy thread is based on Major General Bridges’ charger, while fictitious ‘Breaker’ is emblematic of the hundreds of Walers from the Australian Light Horse Regiment which were not brought home.
To commemorate National Day for War Animals I’ve compiled a selection of wartime animal stories, organised by species. I hope you enjoy them. (not all books are written for children).