Despite damage to one eye, part of a leg missing and an injured wing, Cher Ami the pigeon flew more than 40 kilometres in just over an hour to deliver a message that led to the rescue of a large group of American soldiers in France during World War I. She received two special medals from the grateful French and American forces, was lovingly nursed back to health and was even fitted with a miniature wooden leg!
Voytek the bear was adopted as a cub by Polish troops during World War II. As he grew — to an imposing two metres tall — he developed a few bad habits (smoking cigarettes and drinking beer) but never showed any signs of aggression to the soldiers who had become his family. In fact, he took an active role in helping his Polish comrades by carrying shells to the Allied guns on the front line. After the war, Private Voytek (he was officially enlisted into the Polish army at the request of the soldiers so that he could travel with them) retired to London Zoo, where he lived contentedly for another 20 years and still managed to enjoy the occasional cigarette when his Polish mates visited him.
These are just two of the more unusual stories featured in this incredible book. Conflicts range from the world wars to the war in Afghanistan and the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11. Not all the animals survived their service, but their stories are sensitively told in a way that is still suited to younger readers. Highly recommended.
Title: Jet the Rescue Dog: And Other Extraordinary Stories of Animals in Wartime
Author: David Long
Illustrator: Peter Bailey
Publisher: Faber & Faber, $19.99 RRP
Publication Date: November 2014
For ages: 8–11
Type: Junior Non-Fiction