From the beginning of WWI — "the war to end all wars" — and through the recent wars, military mascots were of great popularity among soldiers. Some mascots belonged to a whole regiment, some to a barrack, and sometimes it was just someone’s pet.

Thanks to the advent of field photography, we are able to view the surviving relics of great value: pictures of little friends that dared stay at the frontier, who reminded fighting soldiers of their human nature, and helped to relieve the monotony of life on duty.

Military mascots have been around for centuries. Indeed, numerous references to animals that were directly involved in warfare and combat-related activities can be found throughout history. 

The 21st-century animal rights activists would burst if they knew about the practice of dousing monkeys in oil and burning them before sending to the enemy's camp. Such a cruelty was a common thing in battles between rebels of the Yanzhou province and the Chinese Imperial Army during the 12th century.

1917, France. R.A.F. Squadron's fox mascot, during World War I

Mascots appeared in aviation right at the beginning of the 20th century. Usually, it was a hangar dog which provided moral support and embraced those brave ones that were about to face the perils of deadly air combat. Sometimes it might be a fox as it was with R.A.F. Squadron.

These mascots became a part of military aviation and always were adored by pilots and crew, as they helped cope with stress, loss, and worries of uncertain future. 

1914, France. Stunter, Tank Corps witty mascot and his master

This agile dog had a lot of tank-riding experience, so the dog could easily balance on the bars of a motorized bicycle. Nobody knows why this couple looks so close, but it does fascinate.

1945, Halmahera Islands, Morotai. 'Ferdie', the Pygmy Flying Phalanger, is on duty with famous RAAF Spitfire squadron.

In this photo, Ferdie's master is Robert Addison, Flying Officer (FO) of Elwood, Vic. They met on the Bathurst Island, where the phalanger spent his youth in the wild. According to the memories of Robert, the pet was a notable drunkard and could easily drink a large tablespoon. Once he fell into a full glass of beer, and that is how he turned into a teetotal possum. He competed in drinking with fifteen dogs, a cat, another possum and a rooster. The master attributed "his success was due to his reputation for temperate living."

See the whole collection “Military mascots.”

 A koala in Cairo, 1915

Military mascot pictures provided by Picryl, the website and mobile application that makes public domain photos from biggest world's archives and libraries accessible online and on mobile. Images for this collection originate from Australian War Memorial and National Library of Scotland.