A special event will be held this weekend in Hawke's Bay to remember the often forgotten victims of war.

On Sunday, the Dannevirke World War I Commemorations Committee, in conjunction with the annual animal blessing service held at St John's Anglican Church, will be honouring the 16 million animals drafted into service in World War I.

"This is not a celebration," Tim Delaney, chairman of the committee said.

"It is a commemoration meant to remind us that war is a hell, for people caught up in it and for the whole of creation.


"If ever there was systematic inhumane treatment of animals, this was it.

"Animals were used in the first World War as fodder - as were the men and women involved - in a military adventure between 1914 and 1918 which served no great purpose and that advanced no moral cause.

"Not all war is unjust, but that one certainly was."

The Dannevirke World War I Committee is encouraging residents to take along horses, donkeys, and birds - as well as the usual dogs, cats and other domestic pets - to the short service.

There will be a blessing of every animal present.

"The traditional annual blessing of animals has been well received in the past and we hope this commemoration of war animals will add another dimension, further reminding us of the great weight of responsibility we human beings have for the stewardship and care of all creatures, great and small," Canon Delaney said.

The part animals played in World War I:

Animals were used for transport, communication and companionship.


In 1914, both sides had large cavalry forces. Horse and camel-mounted troops were used in the desert campaigns throughout the war, but on the Western Front, new weapons such as machine guns made cavalry charges increasingly difficult.

However, animals remained a crucial part of the war effort. Horses, donkeys, mules and camels carried food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to men at the front and dogs and pigeons carried messages.

Canaries were used to detect poisonous gas and cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches.

Animals were not only used for work. Dogs, cats and more unusual animals including monkeys, bears and lions were kept as pets and mascots to raise morale and provide comfort amidst the hardships of war.

- Supplied by Jessica Talarico of the Imperial War Museums