National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

New Zealand War Animal Memorial Day

On the 24th of February, 2018, the National Army Museum held its unveiling of the New Zealand War Animal Memorial to commemorate the contribution of animals who have served with the New Zealand Military and their efforts during war and peace.

The unveiling was made possible due to the efforts made by the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation (AWAMO) and artist Susan Bahary.

Throughout history, both during times of war and times of peace,  man has always been accompanied by animals.

Exercising their abilities, these valiant beasts have worked as carriers, protectors, messengers, mascots and companions. These war animals have served with loyalty and distinction, creating an unrivalled, unwavering and unbreakable bond with their human counterparts.

In two wars; the Second Anglo-Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902) and World War I (1914-1918), New Zealand sent nearly 20,000 horses overseas, and sadly only five would return home – one from South Africa and four from the Middle East and Western Front. As quiet creatures, they gave loyal service to the men that saw them mainly as ‘cobbers’. In carrying out their duties, the horse forged a history that has often been forgotten.

For many New Zealand military units, especially during World War I and World War II, the acceptance of animal mascots was a common practice. Often kept for ceremonial purposes, as emblems of the particular unit or simply as a companion, the animals instilled a sense of peace and normality for the men, and women, suffering the hardships and uncertainties of war.

Currently the use of animals within the New Zealand Defence Force is on a steady rise. Predominately due to the military’s training and implementation of explosive detection dogs and military working dogs. These dogs are used in both homeland defence and in international operations against terrorist forces. 

In conjunction with the unveiling the National Army Museum hopes to use the 24th of February as an annual Purple Poppy Day, in order for the animals to have a commemorative day. It is hoped that with this unveiling of the New Zealand War Animal Memorial, these animals and their sacrifices will be commemorated and remembered by future generations.