THIS month marks the 100th anniversary of the day that the guns fell silent, at the end of the Great War. Throughout the land, remembrance poppies have paid silent tribute to those who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces and also to those who continue to serve today.

A few weeks ago at the end of our village, a very unique and moving sculpture was erected by the side of the road, depicting a soldier leading his horse through a field of red and purple poppies. I hope that it will remain there for some time to come.

While the red poppy is universally associated with Remembrance Day, the purple poppy is relatively new, but now widely recognised as a tribute to all animals throughout history and in present times, who have served their country.

This initiative was launched initially by the charity Animal Aid in order to highlight and pay tribute to animal victims of war.

Over the last few years, however, their purple poppy has been replaced by a purple paw badge which can be worn all year round. In 2016, the purple poppy was adopted by the registered charity Murphy’s Army.

The Murphy’s Army Purple Poppy Campaign continues to encourage members of the public to come together in tribute to the many animals lost in service, and also to those who still serve us today.

Like its red counterpart, money raised from the sale of the purple poppy goes to charity also and this year the three charities to benefit are the Household Cavalry Foundation Retired Horses Section, Cool Coats for Service Dogs and also Murphy’s Army, a registered charity helping to reunite missing pets with their owners, also raising pet theft awareness, promoting pet safety, welfare and care in general.

The Household Cavalry Foundation Retired Horses Section are committed to providing support to organisations and individuals who care for their horses in retirement, ensuring that their needs are met.

“Cool Coats for Service Dogs” provide coats to help keep dogs cool in the heat which are now proving invaluable for service dogs in work, during spells of hot weather. This group also provide Halo scanning services to police stations so that lost pets can be more easily reunited with their owners.

More than 16 million animals served in the First World War, where they were used for transport, communication and companionship. An estimated 1.2 million horses, donkeys, mules and camels carried food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to men at the front and about 200,000 pigeons played their part by carrying vital messages.

In 1914 horses were still being used by the Cavalry on the battlefield, but as time progressed, trench warfare, machine guns and barbed wire made such charges almost impossible.

In March 1918, however, one of the last British cavalry charges was launched at the Germans and out of 150 horses used, four survived. The rest were cut down by machine gun fire.

Canaries also proved invaluable by detecting poisonous gas and even slugs and glow worms played their part. Slugs were used because they could smell mustard gas from a great distance, causing them to close their breathing pores and compress their bodies.

First sign of the slug signal and soldiers would immediately don their gas masks. But perhaps one of the most unlikely non-human contributions to the war effort was made by Lampyris Noctiluca, or as it is more commonly known, the European glow worm. By collecting thousands of worms in jars, soldiers were able to use them to illuminate messages and maps in the dark trenches.

Cats and dogs were trained to hunt rats in the trenches and dogs were also used as Casualty or “Mercy” Dogs.

Vital in the First World War, these dogs were trained to find wounded or dying soldiers on the battlefield. They carried medical equipment so that an injured soldier could treat himself and they were also trained to stay beside a dying soldier, to keep him company during his final hours.

Today one of the most famous animals in war memorials stands in Park Lane in London, bearing the inscription: “This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.”

Below this is a smaller inscription, which reads quite simply: “They had no choice.”