There’s a special garden at Wauchope High School with a memorial dedicated to the animals who also served during the war, beside their human masters. It’s estimated that nine million animals died during World War One, including thousands of Australian war horses, mules, donkeys, dogs, pigeons, camels and dogs.
Sergeant Chris Stafford told the gathering that the iconic Australian horse, the Waler, has seen service since the 1840s, during the Boer War, World Wars One and Two and in 2008, Norforce was the last Australian army unit to be mounted.
The Camel Corps was founded in 1916 and the Desert Mounted Corps had 6,000 camels serving until 1919. The Australian Corps of Signal Pigeons saw these birds used both in World War One and Two.
Perhaps more mules have given the ultimate sacrifice to man than any other animal. They served during World Wars One and Two in the jungles of Asia, the Pacific Islands and all the way to the mountains of Italy.
Sergeant Stafford said that today, military working dogs still have an important partnership with Australian Defence Force personnel and military mascots are seen as a great morale boost to our soldiers.
“On behalf of the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation and myself, this plaque commemorates all animals who have served within the Australian Defence Force and those that continue to do so today,” he said.
Pupils Owen McKittrick and Aiden Pumpa made a soil collection to go into a special ANZAC memorial in Canberra and planted a tree. The memorial was unveiled by Des Hancock, president of Wauchope RSL sub-branch, who spoke about the horrendous human death toll in World War One.
“People had a look at all those who had lost sons, daughters, fathers in the war and said: ‘We need somewhere they can acknowledge their grief and have somewhere to lay a wreath, and so cenotaphs were built,” he said.
“Over the decades, more and more have been built and in all towns similar to Wauchope, with money raised by the people of the town.”
Wauchope High School principal, Glen Sawle said more work would be done on the memorial garden at the front of the school ahead of ANZAC Day in 2018.