Ira and Mick Bellam with St John's Lutheran School student leaders Charisse Dizon, Justice Okesene, Abbie-Jane Lord and Abbie Moseling at the presentation of war dog posters to the school for Anzac Day.
Ira and Mick Bellam with St John's Lutheran School student leaders Charisse Dizon, Justice Okesene, Abbie-Jane Lord and Abbie Moseling at the presentation of war dog posters to the school for Anzac Day. Jessica McGrath

War dogs have a tale to tell

KINGAROY students were curious about the story behind the purple poppies.

Mick and Ira Bellam felt it was important to share the animal side of the Anzac stories to St John's Lutheran School students, when no one knew what the purple poppies meant at their presentation last year.

"It's all about the war dogs, and the purple poppies and what they signify, and I think that's just great,” Mrs Bellam said.

"I wore the purple poppies last year, and a few of them came up to me and asked what it was for.”

Mrs Bellam decided to deviate from the traditional Anzac Day speech when they were asked to come back and represent the RSL at the school Anzac parade.

"It's satisfying for the children to learn that it was not only the soldiers and the nurses, but a lot of animals also gave up their lives,” Mrs Bellam said.

About 400,000 horses left Australian shores at the beginning of the World War I and only one returned, Mr Bellam said.

The animals were especially important in WWI, since they relied on the horses to get places and carry all of their gear,” he said.

"You've got war dogs, camels, pigeons, donkeys, horses - they're all animals in the wars,” he said.

Mrs Bellam told the Kingaroy students a story of a German dog called Digger.

"He was captured by the Aussies and they kept him and used him as their own dog, carrying gear via a cart,” she said.

Mr Bellam hopes the students will be reminded of the stories, and the sacrifices animals had made in the wars, by the World War I dog posters the couple donated to the school library.

He also handcrafted two world war models for the school, to inspire the Year 6 students in their upcoming war unit.

The couple had been collecting war dog artefacts, such as framed pictures, purple poppies and Australian flags over the past year for the presentation.

"I've even got coasters with the latest war dogs on them. They've been using the dogs for years and years,” Mr Bellam said.

The Bellams had collected a bag of poppies to give to the principals after their presentations at the St John's Lutheran School and also Kingaroy State School in the lead-up to Anzac Day.

Student leaders said The Ode before a teacher sounded the Last Post.

Students stood for a moment's silence remembering those fallen in the wars, and those serving now - the soldiers, the nurses, the four-legged diggers - and the message of the purple poppies.

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