Peter and Andrew in front of the Animals in War Memorial

At 2 pm on 11th November, I attended the ceremony of remembrance at the Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park, organised by Animal Aid. Despite the weather being showery and blustery, there was a good turnout of people from all walks of life.

Andrew Tyler, director of Animal Aid, reminded us that war is man’s inability to solve problems without resorting to violent means and this causes immeasurable suffering for all creatures. He said he was not keen on the Dickens Medal, which is awarded to animals for showing bravery in war, as animals did not give their lives, they had them taken away –  they had no choice and they still have no choice.

Andrew told us that interest in the purple poppy, which is to commemorate all animal victims, is going from strength to strength. It is designed to be worn alongside the traditional red poppy, as well as the white peace poppy. He was heartened to see so many of us wearing one that day.

Peter Tatchell, the guest speaker, told us of his grandfather who had fought in war. He did not want to talk about his experiences, but told a young Peter ‘do not ever glorify war, it is a horrible thing, do all you can to stop it.’ Peter reminded us that although his grandfather could speak of the horrors he suffered, animals cannot, they suffer and know not why.

Both Andrew and Peter said we were there that day to bear witness to the animals who have suffered and are still suffering as a result of war, and to vow we will do all we can to stop wars, for the sake of humans as well as animals.

After a two minutes silence, purple poppy wreaths were laid. Some wreaths were already in place and it was most moving to see dozens of them from different organisations.

We heard from a lady who was a child during WW2 who told us about her family dog Micky’s wartime service. Micky, along with 17 others dogs in the village, was taken for war work.

The family had no idea where he had gone or what he was doing, but found out later that Micky had been trained to sniff out mines. After the war, of the 18 dogs taken, only 8 returned, including Micky, who had to undergo demob training to demilitarise him. There was a worry that he would be aggressive when he was reunited with his family, but as soon as he heard their voices, he became the dog he always had been.

To close, we stood and sang ‘All things bright and beautiful.’ We had a period of socialising before we all dispersed.

It’s interesting to see the varied colours of the poppies laid at the memorial.

~ Judith Treanor. Member of QCA and Exeter Quaker Meeting.