Bonzo’s War

Written by Clare Campbell
Review by Mike Ashworth

What was it like to be a domestic animal when the world was at war? This is a question posed by Clare Campbell, the author of this thought-provoking book. Based on a wide variety of sources, this is a history of the impact of the Second World War on animals, primarily, but not entirely, in the UK.

When the agreement with Poland was signed, a government recommendation broadcast by the BBC and local and national newspapers stated that it would be kindest to have pets destroyed. This single statement resulted in the destruction of thousands of family pets. Food which was fit for human consumption was not permitted to be fed to animals, putting even more pressure on owners.

Throughout the War, the value of animals of all kinds and their potential contribution to the war effort was constantly argued, although in the latter stages the government recruited over 6000 dogs to perform in a variety of military roles. This is a fascinating social history which not only questions Britain’s reputation as a nation of pet lovers, but gives an insight into the social and class distinctions prevalent in the 1940s.