Welcome to my 'other blog' the one that explores my crafty side. I have been a maker of 'things' since childhood. By nature I'm creative. I still love to write, and you can click on this link to visit my blog: Hanging On My Word, which is where I indulge in the thought and word side. Although a teacher by profession, I don't offer tutorials. This is my showcase of projects I like to share. So pull aside the curtains and let's begin (I'm a bit theatrical too!).

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance for Animals in War

This post has been updated for Remembrance Day 2016

This is Red Poppy from the book 'Flowers to Knit and Crochet' by Susie Johns and Jan Ollis. I didn’t finish it in time for last year’s Remembrance Sunday and so this year (2015) as it’s rather large, it’s been gracing my handbag.

Here it is keeping company with my keyring/tag from the Donkey Sanctuary, as a tribute to the many animals who give their lives in times of conflict.

No honours wait him, medal, badge or star,
Though scarce could war a kindlier deed unfold;
He bears within his breast, more precious far
Beyond the gift of kings, a heart of gold.

These words are from ‘The Soldier’s Kiss’ by Henry Chappell, written to accompany a watercolour by Fortunino Matania. These, and stories of famous animals in war, can be viewed here on the ‘Animals in War Memorial’ page.

Animals in War, Memorial, Park Lane, London, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
In November 2012, a news story appeared about the remains of a carrier pigeon were found by a homeowner renovating his fireplace. This was no ordinary pigeon, as was revealed by the red cylinder still attached to its leg and containing a coded message. The bird was on war work and was destined for Bletchley Park, it was thought. When the story broke, I was one of the contributing poets of a website called Poetry 24, now closed, and this is my contribution, a rondeau, published at the time, and offered now as a tribute to all animals who gave their lives in conflicts across the world.

Coded Message

A coded message never read,
Attached to pigeon, long since dead,
Which rested in its weary flight,
Revealed at last, exposed to light, 
A folded scrap, a paper shred.

The secret words could not be said,
Their import far too great, instead
A cypher expert had to write,
The coded message.

Top secret words in code embed,
And seal them in a capsule red,
Then send them flying through the night.
With Bletchley Park within its sight,
Fate took a hand and left unread

  The coded message.
© Marilyn Brindley 2012

A message written on rice paper is put in a container and attached to a carrier pigeon by members of 61st Division Signals at Ballymena, Northern Ireland, 3rd July 1941.*
Linking to Sepia Saturday, where the theme is War and Peace.

*By Bainbridge (Lt), War Office official photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Donkeys lead by lions lead by donkeys,

  2. The poppy looks perfect on your bag next to the donkey. Very moving poem.

  3. Beautiful moving poems. I have seen the animal memorial in London and it makes a powerful statement in the midst of the city.

  4. A beautiful poem. And your poppy is lovely.

  5. What a wonderful post. You're right - we don't, as a rule, think of the animals involved in our wars. Animals. Birds! That is an amazing story about the pigeon - poor thing.

  6. Loved your poem and the story behind it. Last month I read (on my Kindle) a wonderful little history entitled: The Equine Legacy, How Horses, Mules, and Donkeys Shaped America by C. S. Purdy. I was surprised to learn of the many different ways donkeys were put to work. The author also described how America in WW1 supplied an enormous number of horses, mules, and donkeys to the war effort, even before we officially joined the allies. Perhaps we also supplied pigeons too.

  7. I wonder how important that coded message really was. Men and women usually have a choice about serving, unless they are conscripted, but dumb animals don't get that choice. A ery thoughtful post, as always.