While attending a Remembrance Day service at the site of the National War Monument in the fall of 2009, Lloyd recalled a large painting that hung on his high school wall. It depicted a horrific scene on the battlefield during World War 1. Horses and mules, submerged in mud, straining in their harnesses with their human comrades with their shoulders to the wheel, as they struggle to free artillery gun carriages.
Lloyd knew first-hand of what war animals went through. Stories passed along through family:
“On a personal note, I recalled my father-in-law who served with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps during the First World War, relating the difficulty in trying to calm the animals as they suffered the trauma of war: “Their eyes expressed nothing but absolute fear.” During the Remembrance Day service in the fall of 2009, Lloyd mentioned to the gentleman at his side that many nations have recognized the importance of honouring their war animals with Memorials and that it was time for Canada to do the same. That gentleman happened to be Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville, Eastern Shore, who was in complete agreement. He mentioned that the National Capital Commission was conducting hearings for proposed commemorations that would enrich the core area of Canada’s Capital Region.
A few days later Lloyd presented his idea to the NCC Committee. He wanted to impress that creating a dedication to our war animals, we would be saying thanks to war heroes that contributed significantly to Canada’s triumphs in military history. The National Capital Commission was very supportive of the idea.
Shortly thereafter, an article written by Kelly Egan for The Ottawa Citizen attracted a small group of volunteers to the project, early in 2010. The idea has slowly come together and is fast becoming a reality.
History of War Animals:
At the high school I attended in Winnipeg, there was a large World War I depiction, a painting that hung on the walls. One image was etched indelibly into my mind: teams of horses and mules, eyes inflamed with fear, straining on their harness as they and their human comrades, with their shoulder to the wheel, struggled to free supply wagons stuck in shell holes full of mud.
There was another painting that hung on that high school wall which was stunning in the emotion it evoked – it remained in my mind throughout all these years. It has served as an inspiration for the design of the War Animals Dedication Project.
An artist, Fortunion Matania, had been sent to Menin, Belgium to capture the meaning of war. This portrayal was the result. Aptly entitled “Goodbye Old Friend,” it showed a gunner knelt down, holding the head of his horse in his lap, bidding his comrade farewell. The horse is mortally wounded and awaits death. Imagine the anguish felt by the gunner, being forced to shoot his companion with whom he shared the hardships of war; a companion with whom he had developed a close bond of friendship, trust, loyalty and admiration. I had read one account of war, where an entire battery, about 150 strong, filed by and kissed their dying horse. Obviously the horse must have been loved and served the battery faithfully over the years.
- Lloyd Swick