It’s the 1916 Battle of Verdun in France during the third year of the seemingly interminable World War One. A detachment of French troops are surrounded by Germans. They’ve been instructed to hold their position at all costs. But the overwhelming strength of the German force makes that seem an impossible task. Who might come to their aid? Incredibly, the answer was to be a messenger dog called Satan.
In fact, it isn’t quite as surprising as it might seem that an animal should play a part in the outcome of a battle. Animals been used in warfare throughout history in a variety of roles. Fighters in horse-drawn chariots have been seen in Central Asia since before the Iron Age. Dogs were used in warfare by the ancient Persians, Egyptians, Romans and others. And a range of animals had their parts to play in World War One.
The First World War saw species as diverse as canaries and camels pressed into service. The former were utilized to warn soldiers of the presence of toxic gas, while camels were used as transport animals, as were mules, donkeys and horses. In fact, some 16 million animals were involved in World War One.