Occasionally you discover a memorial, grave or monument that touches you deeply, and I have had quite a few of them, but the memorial I saw on the 7th of February may just have outshone them all.
When you walk towards Marble Arch in London with Hyde Park on your left, you will come to the memorial dedicated to "Animals in War". It is a truly magnificent piece of work by designer David Backhouse, and it was carved by Richard Holliday and Harry Gray, and built by Sir Robert McAlpine LTD. The memorial is located at Google Earth Co-ordinate 51.511016° -0.157499°.
On the day I visited it was a cold, wet and dull day. And many of the animals that served so faithfully during so many wars probably would have experienced days that were much worse than this.
The memorial takes the form of a broken arc, with two heavily laden mules walking towards a vertical break in the arc. On the other side a horse and a dog walk towards the gardens beyond.
The dog is looking over his shoulder, and has an extremely expressive face, his head and nose shiney from the many people who pause and rub his head. He is a well loved figure.
It is an extremely powerful work, and left me teary eyed. I just wanted to stay there and photograph and absorb its aura.
All to often we forget that in the midst of the human carnage of warfare thre is often a massive loss of life amongst the animals that were used as porterage, weaponry, transportation and support. I don't think that there are any numbers of how many animals lost their lives on the battlefields. As is so eloquently stated "Many and various animals were employed to support British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns over the centuries and as a result millions died. From the pigeon to the elephant they all played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom. Their contribution must never be forgotten."
I must return here one day, to see this in the sunlight, and to rub that nose and look at that long suffering mule. And again I will feel teary because even while I write Rhino are loosing their battle back in South Africa. And I suspect one day we may have to erect a memorial like this so show the world that mankind is very capable of making a species extinct even during peacetime.