Purple Poppy Day

Throughout history in war and in peacetime, animals and mankind have worked alongside each other. As beasts of burden, messengers, protectors, mascots and friends, the war animals have demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans. The bond is unbreakable, their sacrifice great.

The National Army Museum honours these animals each year on the 24th February known as “Purple Poppy Day”. Activities on the day include a special War Animal service at 11am outside the museum in front of the Museum’s War Animal memorial.  This year the service was combined with a ceremony to award Gunner the Afghanistan dog a Blue Cross Award. The Blue Cross award was instituted in the UK and has been recognising animals since before WWI for bravery and selflessness, fighting alongside men of their country. This year they have chosen Gunner as the recipient.

The purple poppy represents animals and the museum in Waiouru devotes Purple Poppy Day and much of the month of February to remembering the deeds and sacrifices of all the animals who have contributed during times of war and conflict. 

Throughout our military history all sorts of animals have served alongside our soldiers. Camels, horses, donkeys, dogs, pigeons, canaries, cats, goats, turtles, chickens, and the list goes on.

Lt Col Syd Dewes next to Gunner’s picture and Blue Cross medal.

Gunner was a much loved guard dog, mascot and friend of the NZ Provincial Reconstruction Team who occupied a remote base at Nayak in the Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan. Gunner, a Kuchi dog was almost as tall as he was long, and weighed in at some 80 kgs. Typical of his breed, he was independent, fiercely territorial, and with his thick white coat, was able to adapt and brave the rugged mountainous conditions.

Pictured above LCpl Dinsdale and Explosive Detection Dog Pacer and to right Cpl Olsen with Patrol Dog Koda.


Gunner, with Lt Col Syd Dewes.