November 9, 2023

Remembering People, Remembering Animals

For Remembrance Day this year, I plan to visit the Animals in War Memorial in Confederation Park to honour both the people who fought and sacrificed their lives in combat and the animals who were used to support them. Throughout the ages, people have used animals in conflict in many ways: horses and mules for transportation; pigeons to deliver messages; dogs for bomb detection, search and rescue, medical aid, and more; and all kinds of animals have provided companionship and comfort during wartime.  

(Photo: Broadview Museum)

I recently found out about another story of a Canadian animal who was brought into conflict. In 1914, Canadian soldiers passing through Broadview, Saskatchewan, on their way to fight in the First World War, met a goat and took a liking to him.

The soldiers managed to bring the goat along with them and even smuggled him overseas. They named him Bill and he became the mascot of the 5th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Bill however was more than a mascot and earned the title of Sergeant because of his contributions. Sgt. Bill was credited with guarding prisoners, cornering enemy guardsmen in a trench and, perhaps most famously, saving three Canadian soldiers from an explosion by shoving them into a trench.

Sgt. Bill suffered some injuries during the war, but returned home alive and even received awards for his service. Upon his return, he reunited with his former owner and lived the rest of his life in Winnipeg.

We know the story of Sgt. Bill, but he is just one of the many animals who were used in combat and endured distress, fear and immense danger. There were thousands more who were not as lucky and never got to return home.

As we honour the people who bravely served and lost their lives in war, we must also remember the animals who were at their side, suffered and died.

Sharon Miko
President & CEO