A new exhibition has opened at the Artillery Museum in St. Petersburg titled “Animals in War” and promises to bring a new view to war and the ways in which animals were used for various purposes throughout history.
The exhibition includes stuffed animals with military clothing, a horse clothed in Oriental armor from the 15th and 16th centuries, dogs and horses in gas masks, accessories for carrier pigeons, and even ingenious uses for snakes.
There are also numerous sculptures, paintings, graphics, and photos which depict the life of animals in war conditions.
The director of the Artillery Museum, Valery Krylov said the exhibition’s theme resonated with the Animals In War memorial in London dedicated to the countless animals that have served and died under British military command throughout history.
“There is a very heartbreaking inscription on that monument which reads, ‘They had no other choice.’ We have had as many animals die in war in Russia, but there are not yet enough monuments to them. Therefore we hope this exhibition will partly pay tribute to them,” Krylov mentioned.
The Soviet Red Army used animals in various ways including traveling by moose or camel instead of by horse as their hoof prints brought less suspicion from the enemy than that of a horse. There is also the story of a dog named Dick, a sheepdog and World War II hero who was stationed on the Leningrad front. The daring Dick sniffed out up to 13,000 mines and helped to prevent the former imperial Pavlovsk Palace from being blown up, having found a bomb under the palace’s basement less than three hours before it was due to explode.
In another story, Soviet army dogs were trained to run under enemy tanks with explosives attached to their sides. However, the dogs got scared and usually ran next to the tank rather than under. Eventually the Germans understood the tactic and shot the dogs before they could reach the tanks and as a result such missions were canceled. A copy of such an explosive device is on display at the exhibition.
There are several examples of animals being used by various military commanders such as Carthaginian military commander Hannibal who placed snakes in pots and jars and then threw them onto enemy ships to distract and bite them after the jars broke.
Another example includes military messenger pigeons such as two pigeons who saved a British submarine that had begun to sink after a Nazi bombing in 1942 and could send a message for help. Two messenger pigeons were released from the submarine via the torpedo tubes and flew a mission the navy base with a message for help. The female pigeon survived and the male pigeon died en route from severe weather conditions. The submarine and its crew were eventually rescued as a result.
There are also special exhibitions for children including interactive puzzles, places to draw, and more…
“Animals in War” runs through April 8, 2012 at the Artillery Museum.