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What Animal Saved Most Lives in WWI (Great War, 1914 to 1918)?

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Having researched the First World War extensively, I felt it was time to share my knowledge with the world.

Animals in the Great War

War Pigeons

Animals In World War I

We've most recently heard of the role played by the war-horse, undoubtedly a candidate for bravery and major assistance with various war efforts.

Similar roles were played by mules, donkeys, camels and other pack animals, but usually with less heavy machinery and pack.

Dogs were employed, the war-dogs, in various roles from message carrying, sentry and guard duty, ambulance work etc.

Pigeons, the war-pigeons, also undertook messenger work; a vital role in the ever difficult realm of communication. The messages they carried, that reached their destination, no doubt were the saviour of innumerable men.

We must also consider man as an animal, but, as this is my article I invoke my prerogative to dismiss this animal as a candidate for the saving of life, as he would have saved many more had he decided not to go to war in the first place.

Which brings us on to those animals which were involved in both a negative and, coincidentally, a positive way with regard to life. Many diseases were rife across all theatres of war, from influenza to dysentery, diarrhoea to trench foot. Each of these made life hell and caused the death of innumerable people; but they also caused men to be removed from fighting duty, their theatre of death, which inadvertently made the microbe a candidate for the saving of lives. Since they are not really animals, I shall not consider them further.

The final candidate is one which we hear so little, in fact you have not heard of it at all, with regard to the saving of life during the Great War. No medals were hung around its neck. No plaudits were written in news columns. No politician eulogised in Parliament about its role in saving life. Who is this candidate?: The slug.

War Horse Film Trailer

French Messenger Dog

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Pigeons Deliver Mail in WWI

Animals Save Lives In The Great War

Horses, donkeys, mules, dogs, camels, and pigeons were all conscripted, along with their handlers, and undoubtedly saved many lives in the process of their war efforts.

Horses, donkeys, mules, and camels saved lives as a result of undertaking work that would otherwise have been undertaken by men. Transportation was their main function, either of men or materials.

Dogs and pigeons most definitely, by doing that which they were trained to do, caused lives to be saved by delivering messages across enemy lines and under heavy fire.

Dogs were also employed for ambulance work, that is finding those men injured on the battlefield and succouring them until they could be rescued. Certainly a brave action. Certainly an action without any great negativity. Certainly an action which caused men's lives to be saved. And many of them.

And so to my last candidate. Many tests were carried out on various animals, during the war period, in an attempt to find an early-warning of gas attack. None were effective until the humble slug (limax maximus) was checked out.

A late comer to the war (it was only employed for approximately the last three months) but it allowed troops in the trenches to get their gas masks on before the gas concentration was at a lethal level. Thus it saved countless lives.

War Horse Play Trailer

WMD's in WWI

Which Animal Saved the Most Lives?

  • Horses, donkeys, mules, and camels - none of their efforts were conspicuously of a nature which caused men not to be killed. So they do not make the final three for the title.
  • Dogs and pigeons - the same actions most probably caused the deaths of those on the opposing side - so this action is negated somewhat. Pigeons, therefore, I place third.
  • Dogs - ambulance work, in my view, places dogs second in the league table of 'most lives saved'.
  • Slugs - however, it is the actions performed against WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction), that probably saved the most lives following the sordid actions of gas warfare.

Thus slugs get my vote as the animal that 'saved most lives in WWI'.

Other Weird and Wonderful Animals Utilised in WWI

© 2022 Chaz

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