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Inscribed on a monument on London’s Park Lane, built to honour those animals who have served and died in war, is the legend: “They had no choice”. A fitting description indeed of the slavish devotion often demonstrated by animals through more than 2,000 years of military engagement under, over and alongside their human counterparts. But this history features tragicomic tales at least as often as heart-warming ones.

The motto for the hapless horses drafted into action during the First World War, for example, probably should have been “to protect and…



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