The obligation of the First and Second World Wars was not only shouldered by the soldiers alone: the missions, the camaraderie of daily life in the trenches were also shared by our brave animals who fought alongside their friends and masters. The bravery and courage of these animals is commemorated on an annual Memorial Day, Purple Poppy Day, on the 24 February held at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.
Countless New Zealand Military units, both in the First and the Second World War, secured their mascots in a variety of ways, some temporary, others saw the War out with their masters and returned home safely. Dogs were some of the most trusted workers in the war as they were trained to sound a warning when on sentry duty or were trained to find the wounded in no-mans-land. One such dog was a bulldog named Caesar the official mascot of the 4th Battalion (A Company) New Zealand Rifle Brigade. Caesar was part of a stretcher-bearer team who would scour the land in between trenches and search for lost or wounded men. One soldier, Rifleman Johnson, would be indebted to Caesar for digging him out of a trench after he was buried alive. Unfortunately, Caesar died of a gun shot wound while searching for the wounded, he was later to be buried with the soldier he had died beside.
Many sacrifices were made by New Zealand dog lovers who presented their beloved dogs for service, one such dog was a deerhound named ‘Paddy’ who was attached to the 16th (Waikato) Regiment and was donated by Mrs Rogers of Hamilton in August of 1914. Another ‘Paddy’ although smaller in stature, was a great favourite of the Wellington Infantry Regiment, when he was presented to the Prime Minister William Massey at Vauchelles, France, on 30 June 1918 although on parade Paddy looked relaxed at the attention.
Buller the bulldog was the mascot for the Auckland Mounted Rifles, he was cared for by Trooper Charles Neaber. Buller dutifully attend all drill and training exercises and accompanied his regiment on parade. Just prior to the Auckland Mounted Rifles embarkation he was included in the Regimental photo. While Charles was overseas Buller stayed with a friend of Charles' - Horace Strange-Mure from Wellington.
Charles' great granddaughter shared with us that, on the 6th August, Charles Neaber was wounded on Walkers Ridge - a bullet tearing into the calf on his right leg and shattering the bone. The family does not recall the exact details of how Charles was wounded or where he was at the time (things a father would never talk of especially to his daughters). It is said that back in New Zealand, Buller 'knew' that something had happened to his master Charles, for on several occasions over a period of a few days Horace Strange-Mure had to retrieve Buller from the beach where the dog appeared to be pining. Story has it that the time Buller was pining on the beach coincided with the same time that Charles was wounded!
Charles returned to New Zealand on the 8th June 1916, where he spent some time in a convalescent home in Wellington before going on to stay with his friend Horace Strange-Mure and reuniting with Buller.
Another brave dog was Major Major who had been in many campaign battles. He began his military career as a pup at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Later emigrating to New Zealand with his master Captain Errol Williams, he then joined the 19th Battalion. Major Major was given in trust to a few new keepers and served in Italy, Egypt and Libya. Major Major is remembered affectionately and was buried near the slopes of Ed Duda on November 1944.
The courageous pigeon was an asset and beloved friend of the soldier, who with crucial messages attached to a tiny cylinder on their leg, flew through battlefields to deliver their precious cargo to London. It was recorded that ninety-five percent of the messages were successfully delivered and some of those birds were found with bullet wounds.
Of course, the most stoic character of both World Wars must be the donkey, who duty bound would calmly bring wounded soliers to the Field Station for treatment. A famous painting by Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones was accredited to Private Richard Henderson who along with his trusted donkey Murphy brought water supply from the Greek Islands to the trenches. Murphy and others like him were the ambulances of their time, rescuing many day or night.
Horses too were in the thick of battle with their owners, deep in mud and with the blasts of cannons all around them, these brave animals would struggle alongside their companions determined to move equipment, carry supplies and help bring the wounded to the field hospital.
So, what can one say to the loyalty of such the animals who brought courage to our hearts, who sacrificed their strength and life under such tough conditions, except to remember and commend their determined stoic character of ‘never giving up?’
Military mascots', (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 19-Mar-2019
Stroud, Patricia, (2003). Caesar the Anzac Dog. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins.
Prasad, Mini. Caesar the Anzac dog. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 29 November 2016. Updated: 26 April 2018.
Cite this article
A Menagerie of Mascots. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 17 February 2020. Updated: 19 February 2021.