- Animals in the Great War: Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives by Lucinda Moore
Lucinda Moore's book Animals in the Great War is a comprehensive pictorial spotlight shining on the many ways a menagerie of animals, great and small, contributed their service and their lives to the cause of World War I. Using archival material from the Mary Evans Picture Library, Moore's choice of images vividly tells their stories and gives the reader privileged access to the intimate relationships between humans and animals in dire and desperate conditions.
The sections are organized by animal species that live above and below the sea, swoop through the air, and maneuver upon the land. The reader's curiosity builds chapter by chapter and is increasingly excited to discover the next incredible tale of animal bravery and human innovation. Moore does not disappoint, and it is not an overstatement to affirm that the reader is deeply moved by the smiles engendered by wartime personnel as they gaze upon their nonhuman allies with genuine love and pride. The diversity of animals is only outdone by the photographs that reveal exotic or dangerous locations, complexity of equipment, and the grueling conditions endured by each animal.
Moore clearly represents the importance of animals to human well-being, both physically as well as psychologically, in times of crisis. Whether it is in the dissemination of manual assistance, a boost to morality, or diversion and companionship, animals during the Great War were literally indispensable to the overall war effort. Each photograph reveals that the animals appear to have delivered a much-needed "normalcy" during times of uncertainty on the front lines and in the trenches. While recent stories of war horses have incited the public imagination, Moore's endearing photographic compendium piques the reader's interest in a newly found compassion for monkeys who retrieve a flag under an array of bullets, circus elephants moving logs, and the cozy nap time image of a sailor sleeping with his beloved pig. Cats, rather than only being applauded for their predatory skills, were given high marks for being symbols of good luck and were deemed as providing a certain "homeiness," evoking a mood of safety, hope, and comfort posing as mascots on torpedo guns. The human–animal bond is witnessed in illustrations such as in the rescue of Norah the bulldog during the sinking of the HMS King Edward VII in January 1916, which depicts the length seamen would go to sacrifice their lives for their beloved mascots.
While the scope of Moore's book is to celebrate and honor the animals in wartime effort, it cannot be negated that these animals lacked agency and were placed in dangerous and oppressive living conditions. The book is at once a mixture of applause and celebration for the human-animal bond and a disturbing admonition [End Page 79] of human hubris and exploitation to serve wartime ends. Moore gently affirms this tension in reporting facts from newspapers, letters, and journals of how the animals were trained, trapped, rescued, confined, butchered, made extinct, put at risk, and abandoned. Between the lines of perseverance and bravery, she says enough about their dire conditions to incite awareness that glory, honor, and a "Lassie saves the day" interpretation is not the central message of her work. While Moore marginally addresses this truth in subsequent chapters such as "Political Animal" and the last two chapters on what appears to be humankind's affinity for horses, she tiptoes through this tragedy by focusing on the animal as "hero and heroine" in hopes of allowing the images to speak for themselves. A cursory reading of the photographs of camaraderie between human and animal, while deeply moving and important, belie the cages, dugouts, metal harnesses, leashes, heavy link chains, muzzles, and tight grips necessary to keep the animals in check. The "truth" of Moore's work is in the beholder and is best explored in the images themselves.
Through unrivalled access to rarely seen illustrated wartime magazines, books, and...