It has been three years in the making but finally on Sunday, November 3, the Animals in War Dedication was unveiled in Confederation Park, Ottawa. Just in time for Remembrance Day. This monument is all due to the persistence of veteran Lloyd Swick who presented to the National Capital Commission the idea of recognizing the animal heroes in Canadian history who contributed to the country’s military efforts. Though slow in coming together, Mr. Swick’s concept is now a reality. The statue and plaque now stands in a place of honour in Canada’s capital.
November 11th is a great of great significance to many across the world. Though I have been lucky to avoid being touched by war, I recognize all I enjoy as a result of the sacrifices of others before me, human and animal. If Canadians had not been so willing to risk their lives for the sake of their homeland, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here. It’s a grave thing to imagine.
Last year I shared the story of Gander, the Newfoundland dog, who gave his life to save those of his comrades in war. As a recipient of the Dickin Medal he may be one of the more famous canines to greatly impact the war effort, but he is only one of thousands. At this point, our human armed forces could not do their jobs without military working dogs by their sides.
Judy, the short-haired Pointer, was another such hero in military history. She was born in Shanghai but was given to the Royal British Navy and assigned to the HMS Grasshopper during World War II.
Unfortunately, her time on the ship was cut short by enemy fire. Amazingly, Judy lived through the wreck and was rescued by her former crew mates before seeking refuge on an island. The plucky dog thanked them for their efforts by locating a water source, saving them all from dehydration. This would be enough to make her a hero on its own but her story doesn’t end there.
The soldiers then attempted to return to an Allied-controlled area but did not make it in time. They were all captured and taken to a Japanese prisoner of war camp, Judy included.
As a dog, Judy had no wartime rights. Her survival was mostly due to fellow soldier, Frank Williams. He befriended the dog and shared with her what he could. He even managed to convince the enemy camp’s office to grant Judy official POW status which would prevent her from being killed. She remains the only dog in history to have been granted this status.
Naturally, Judy and Williams became very close. She did her best to protect him from the more brutal aspects of the camp and he made sure to keep her from starvation. When he was transferred to a different camp, Williams smuggled her on board the boat.
It’s a good thing he did, too, as this ship was also torpedoed. From their spot below deck, Frank and Judy were able to escape through a porthole. With all the chaos, her human friend lost sight of her as he swam to shore. He could only hope she had somehow made it to land.
It turns out he needn’t have worried. Not only did Judy survive this second bombing, but she contributed to the rescue effort. She was seen helping many of the struggling men to reach pieces of the wreckage in order to float to land. By turning herself into a makeshift raft, the soldiers clung to her as she paddled them to safety.
After several hours, and many more lives saved, Judy eventually made it to the POW camp where Williams was located. I can only imagine the brilliant smile that must have been on his face as he met with her again.
It was another year before the war was over and it wasn’t an easy one. Through it all Judy and Williams stuck together, battling the elements of the jungle, which included both deadly disease and attacks from wild animals. Despite the odds, the two made it through. When the war finally ended, Judy again had to be smuggled on to the ship home to Liverpool, England. This time they made it to their destination unscathed and Judy was officially championed as the hero she was.
There are many things to be thankful for on Remembrance Day. This year, along with my thoughts for all the humans who gave their lives so I can sit here in comfort in my living room, I will also think of Judy. Without her and all the other animals who have gone to war for us, many soldiers may not have made it home.