Way back in 2004 I found myself writing about London’s Animals in War memorial and this exhibition appears to be part of the same movement to recognise that other animals suffer in wartime too. The Animals’ War arrives from London where an adult ticket was £6 and a child’s £4. Here at Salford Quays it’s free!
As you’d expect there’s plenty of paraphernalia like little doggy gas slippers and kennels designed to withstand chemical attack. There’s film of family pets being signed up for World War II… and letters from the MoD with sad news that they shan’t return. Various pigeon parachutes are on display. Very, very few of these feathered messengers survived.
Inevitably there are interactive displays for the kids. Which animal is least likely to trigger a landmine: rat or elephant?
Some may find all this too anthropomorphic, but the problem for me is that the bond between human and non-human goes largely unexplored. Take Able Seacat Simon of HMS Amethyst, who gets a nice enough display including his Dickin Medal and a scrapbook. You might easily leave thinking he got his award for simply remaining cute while the ship was pinned down. In fact, Simon spent ten weeks protecting several dozen wounded from being eaten alive by rats. Accounts from the time show that he clearly bonded with the men and helped raise morale. The Animals’ War remains a little cold, failing to offer any insight into these relationships.