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Published October 25th 2015
Art pays tribute to war animals
The latest addition to the City of Fremantle's public art collection is a sculpture called Ship of Stories – Anzac 2014, which is on display at Arthur Head (on the grass next to the Round House).
The new 'Ship of Stories - Anzac 2014' sculpture near the Round House in Fremantle
This sculpture, a collaboration by Perth-based Tony Pankiw and Albany-based Sue Codee, depicts the animals that were taken to Egypt to provide moral and practical support for Australian troops. The work was bought from Sculpture@Bathers earlier this year and celebrates a hundred years of the Anzac story.
On the side of the ship are cut out images relating to the Anzacs and where they came from within Western Australia, New Zealand and the rest of Australia. There are also cut out images of some of the animals that accompanied the soldiers to war.
The animals on the Ship of Stories - Anzac 2014 sculpture
The Anzac fleets carried enormous cargoes, including many animals who played a vital role in the First World War. Horses are the most obvious war animals, as they were used for transporting troops and supplies. Sadly, of the 136,000 horses who accompanied Australian troops to the First World War only one returned home. Donkeys and mules were also used for carrying heavy supplies on the battlefields.
Dogs were another invaluable addition to the cargo. As well as being good companions, dogs found wounded soldiers, sniffed out explosives, laid new electric lines and carried messages. Messages were also conveyed by carrier pigeons and some pigeons received war medals for saving countless lives. Even glowworms were pressed into service. These were kept in jam jars and used by soldiers in the trenches to illuminate maps and letters from loved ones.
But what is little known is that kangaroos and koalas accompanied Australian soldiers as mascots. One archival photograph of an Anzac in Egypt shows him hand feeding a kangaroo, and several kangaroos were given to the Cairo Zoo when the men left for Gallipoli. Hence the depictions on the Ship of Stories include kangaroos and kiwis, representing the Australian and New Zealand contingents.
Kangaroos accompanied Australian soldiers as mascots
The role played by animals in wartime remained largely un-acknowledged until 2004 when the Animals In War Memorial was unveiled in London. The Ship of Stories – Anzac 2014 is an acknowledgement of the role animals played in the Australian and New Zealand war effort.