Designed by English sculptor David Backhouse and located at the Brook Gate, Park Lane, on the edge of Hyde Park in London, the Animals in War Memorial is a war memorial dedicated to the countless animals that served and died alongside the British and the Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout history.
At the beginning of 1939, as a war against Germany became imminent, the Government in the United Kingdom issued some precautionary measures for the general safety of the people. However, just on the eve of the World War II, during the midsummer of the same year, the British government issued a formal statement to the effect that, in advance of an emergency, people should move to the countryside, along with their household animals and if that is not possible, it is kinder to have them killed. In other words, either take your pets out of the cities or euthanize them. The government advice was published in every newspaper and broadcasted on radio, while the heartbroken people frantically started to search for veterinarians and veterinary hospitals that would be willing to help and put their beloved pets to 'peaceful sleep'.
In the late morning of September 3, 1939, when King George VI addressed his nation on a live broadcast informing them that the United Kingdom had officially declared war against the Nazi Germans, almost every street in the heart of London was suddenly filled with confused and scared people, without having any idea about their fates. It was reported that, on the next day almost all the hospitals and dispensaries were swarmed with pets and by the end of the week almost 750,000 of those poor animals were put to eternal sleep.
After the Great War, when the trustees of the Animals in War Memorial Fund obtained planning consent from the Westminster City Council, the public raised over one million pounds for the erection of the memorial at the Brook Gate.
The memorial, a curved Portland stone wall measuring 55 feet by 58 feet (16.8 m by 17.7 m), stands as the arena of war. The wall is decorated with the images of some animals, including elephants and pigeons, while the arena includes sculptures of two heavily laden bronze mules proceeding towards the stairs near the crack of the walls, and a bronze horse and bronze dog beyond it, looking into the distance. The memorial has two separate inscriptions and one of them simply states, they had no choice
During the hard days of wars, those animals worked tirelessly and often without any recognition. The dogs hunted for the hidden mines and other weapons kept hidden by the enemies, the horses were used to cart heavy gear and munitions, while the elephants carried bulk supplies across distant lands and the pigeons soared through the sky delivering key information.
The Animals in War Memorial is an unusual war memorial, a powerful and moving tribute to all the animals that served, suffered and died in the wars or due to the wars of the 20th century. On the 90th anniversary of the start of World War I, it was unveiled by Princes Anne, the Princes Royal on 24 November 2004.