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By Jilly Cooper

Jilly Cooper has written a tribute to the function of animals in wartime. From the pigeons wearing important messages to and from the beleaguered urban in the course of the Seige of Paris to canine sniffing out mines for the British invasion strength in international conflict II. A vibrant checklist of man's inhumanity to animals, and an surprising tale of braveness.

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The Society also unofficially supplied horse ambulances to various units training at home who asked for them, and many worthy ladies were kept busy knitting pads to prevent saddle sores. It was soon found that the ninety RSPCA inspectors who’d joined up were absolutely invaluable because of their discipline and knowledge of horses. After three months, the strain on the Army Veterinary Department was so great that on 5 November, the Army Council climbed down and wrote that they would be very grateful if the RSPCA would help them find more veterinary staff to join the Corps.

Yet for four thousand years he had been our most faithful ally in war. He has thundered unquestioningly into the mouth of the cannon. He has carried the military leaders and their vast armies to the far corners of the earth, allowing them to carve out their great empires. Yet despite the millions of words written to glorify the soldier’s courage in war, little praise has been given to the horse that bore him. To single out a horse for praise seems to be as alien to most military commanders and historians as to suggest a tank or a helicopter fought with particular gallantry or stoicism.

Being married to a military history publisher, Leo Cooper, for twenty-one years, has been rather like working in a sweet shop. I soon developed a complete block about the subject, and out of the 400 military books he has published, I had shamefully to confess I had read less than half a dozen. As a woman, I suspect I am not alone in having this block. In the same way that some men spurn novels, particularly romantic fiction, women tend to avoid war books, as being an exclusively guts-and-glory male province.

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