With Remembrance Day coming up on November 11, thousands of Canadians will take a moment of silence to remember the fallen soldiers of war. Throughout Remembrance week, many will also choose to wear a traditional red poppy, as a sign of respect for the millions of people who lost their lives in military conflict. Now, Canada's military animals are also being remembered, and they’re being honoured with a special purple poppy.
For many, many years, Canadians have worn a traditional red poppy to symbolize their respect for all of the fallen soldiers of conflict over the years. Now, some people are choosing to add a purple poppy alongside their traditional red one, to show their admiration for the millions of animals that also lost their lives during war.
According to the BBC, the purple poppy symbolizes all of the animals who lost their lives during human conflict. During war, animals like dogs, horses and birds have been used as messengers, for detection, for scouting and rescue, and as “beasts of burden” on the front line.
It is estimated that more than 8 million animals sacrificed their lives to help humans in World War 1 alone, and the aim of the purple poppy is to remember and respect all of the creatures that died, both human and furry.
It’s believed that tens of thousands of horses, dogs, birds and other animals have specifically served Canada and the Canadian military during times of war, helping with everything from transporting equipment and supplies, carrying messages and saving troops under fire.
In one particularly striking example, a Newfoundland dog belonging to the Royal Rifles of Canada saved many lives during the Second World War. He travelled with the regiment to Hong Kong and chased off enemy troops on at least two occasions during battle. He died carrying an enemy grenade away from a group of wounded Canadian soldiers.
In another example, the 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade took on a goat as a mascot during the First World War. Intended just to keep the men company, the goat ended up actually saving their lives, managing to headbutt several soldiers into a trench before a shell exploded.
Despite being part of the British Army, one German Shepherd puppy and his handler were on assignment with the Royal Canadian Regiment in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1998. The pup ended up saving several Canadian lives, by helping to bring down and capture a gunman firing at Canadian peacekeepers.
Animals, particularly puppers, continue to aid the Canadian Armed Forces as they fight for peace both at home and abroad.
The sacrifices of the millions of animals who died have been memorialized in a monument, erected in 2012 near the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
Whether or not you choose to wear a purple poppy alongside your traditional poppy this weekend, it’s worth sparing a moment for all of those furry and fuzzy lives lost during conflict too.