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‘Animals are the unsung heroes of military history’

Personalities are important, but we forget the animals associated with them, said a Colonel (retd) at the Military Literature Festival in Chandigarh

chandigarh Updated: Dec 10, 2017 10:04 IST
Sumeda
Sumeda
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Military Literature Festival,Chandigarh,Berkshire Regiment
(Representative Image)

“Do you remember the name of the horse who fought alongside Napoleon?” asked Colonel Hardeep Singh, speaking at a session on ‘Military animals: The unsung heroes’ during the Military Literature Festival, in Chandigarh on Saturday.

“Personalities are important, but we forget the animals associated with them,” he said.

While military animals fought on the battlefield and risked their lives for different countries, their bravery has not been documented as that of their human counterparts.

Lt Gen Baljit Singh, a panellists on the session rued that canine soldiers in India have not been given their due credit. One of the heroes that he talked about was Bobbie, a mongrel with the Berkshire Regiment. He guarded the regiment and accompanied his handler Lance Sgt Peter Kelly onto the battlefield in Afghanistan in 1880.

“During the war, the British force was overrun by the Afghans, and over half of the regiment was killed. Bobbie kept barking furiously and also sustained serious injuries. He, however, survived along with a few other soldiers. When he returned to England, he was presented to Queen Victoria, who bent down and pinned the Afghan medal on his collar,” Lt Gen said. Bobbie now remains stuffed at the regimental museum in Salisbury, decorated with the medal.

Lt Gen Singh also narrated an account from Brig Darshan Khullar’s (retd) book ‘When Generals Failed’ of an Indian dog who saved a grievously injured soldier. The dog kept on barking after seeing a party, constantly peeped inside a hut and run around it to attract its attention. Upon checking, the team found an emaciated jawan, who came crawling out on his arms. The jawan later told the officer that he had survived six days on the crumbs brought to him by his canine friend.

Lt Gen Singh emphasised that the valour of canine heroes should be recognised and tales of their bravery told like that of their human counterparts.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 20:47 IST