On Remembrance Sunday, 8 November, Eastbourne becomes one of the first towns outside London to pay formal tribute to the millions of animals who served and died in two World Wars.
Eastbourne Residents Bill Palethorpe and Ann Johnson will lay a wreath of purple poppies at the War Memorial, in memory of all the animals, including working dogs, equines and pigeons serving alongside troops, who have died and continue to suffer in war zones. This will take place at the formal wreath laying parade and ceremony, organised by the Eastbourne Combined Ex-Services Association.
Bill and Ann came up with the idea after hearing about the annual service that takes place at the Animals War Memorial in Park Lane, London. Bill says: "We wanted to raise awareness in Eastbourne of the unsung sacrifice made by animals in war and also the way many other domestic and wild animals and birds continue to suffer. It seemed appropriate since there are so many ex-service people living here." Bill's father was buried in a bombing raid in 1944 then dug out alive after being located by a rescue dog.
The pair say they have received tremendous support from all sides of the community in this commemorative gesture. Ann says: "In addition, we are specially grateful and proud to be supported by a number of local, national and international organisations who have signed the wreath's card." These include: Alexandra Bastedo Champions Animal Sanctuary in West Chiltington, Pulborough; East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service; Barby Keel Animal Sanctuary, Bexhill; Eastbourne Vegetarian Society; Viva! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals) and Quaker Concern for Animals. Special thanks go to Animal Aid, based in Tonbridge, who had the original idea of commemorating in this way animals who died in wars through the sale of purple poppies and wreaths. Trevor Weeks from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service will also take part in the march.
Two international organisations have also added their names to the card: The Mayhew Animal Home & Mayhew International and The Brooke.
The Mayhew helped facilitate transportation to and quarantine in the UK of the stray dogs from Afghanistan, rescued by Nowzad Dogs, the charity started in 2006 by a group of Royal Marines serving in Afghanistan. Mayhew International continues to work in Kabul to improve conditions for animals there. Mayhew Chief Executive Officer Caroline Yates has sent the message: "In memory of all those animals who with courage, devotion and loyalty served their owners and their country. Their sacrifice is not forgotten."
The Brooke is the UK's leading overseas equine welfare charity, improving the lives of horses, donkeys and mules working in the poorest parts of the world through its mobile vet teams. It was founded in Cairo in 1934, originally as a hospital for old war horses, by Dorothy Brooke. On arrival in Egypt, Dorothy, the wife of a British army major general, was horrified to discover the hundreds of 'walking skeletons' that were the ex-war horses of the British, Australian and American forces. All of them had seen service in the First World War and, when the conflict ended in 1918, they were abandoned and sold into a life of hard labour. Ailsa Herd, speaking of behalf of the Brooke said: "The Brooke supports Ann and Bill with their special tribute to Animals in War. We had our own Horse Hero campaign culminating on World Animal Day on 4 October when we held a special tribute and shared supporter messages at the Animals in War Memorial in London."