This week many of us have been remembering those that fell during the War and marking the occasion were two of our rehomed donkeys, Flora and Oonagh, who went along to the Jimmy the Donkey at Somme Centenary Service being held in Peterborough Central Park yesterday. Flora took an active part in the service stepping in once again to represent Jimmy the donkey.
Jimmy was a lively and determined donkey.
Dennis Wright, the grandson of Jack Dudley who rescued Jimmy, was also at the service and he recalled grooming and riding Jimmy when he was a very small child after the War and thought Flora was just like Jimmy in size and colour.
Southfields Primary School have been instrumental in supporting the story of Jimmy and in arranging this memorial service through Natalie Bailey and the children in Class 6. Connie, one of the school children, helped to lead Flora in the parade whilst there were readings from other members of the class who enjoyed meeting Flora and Oonagh.
Jimmy, who was also known as The Sergeant, was reportedly born at the Battle of the Somme when a shell wounded his pregnant mother as she went into labour during the battle. It is claimed that Private Jack Dudley rescued Jimmy and the troops brought him up. He was even taught to raise his hoof 'on salute' by the Cameronian Scottish Rifle Regiment.
In 1920 he was brought to Peterborough where the Cameronian Scottish Rifles were briefly based before their return to Scotland. Jimmy was sold to Mrs Heath - about whom little is known, before he was once again reunited with Jack Dudley.
Jimmy has now been awarded an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal for bravery, the highest military honour for an animal. He already had Honorary Sergeant status which earned him the right to wear three stripes on his bridle.
Flora was proud to wear both the medal and the stripes plus the standard of the RCameronian Scottish Rifles.
At the service there were members of the Cameronian Rifles plus other veterans and pipers piped the parade across the park. Wreaths were also laid by Southfield School and the Cameronian Scottis Rifles and Royal British Legion.
Oonagh and Flora live with Donkey Sanctuary Guardian Jo Cordell. In readiness of the parade, Jo had been training both donkeys and taking them on outings to familiarise themselves with being around people and different environments. They behaved admirably when they joined the parade. With the sound of Pipers, the flying of the Standards, the loud commands of the Sergeant Major and the general admiration from members of the public in the park, they took it all in their stride and were happy to stand quietly through the moving service led by The Reverend George.
Both donkeys provided a focus for the memorial service and seemed to understand the solemnity of the occasion. After the service they were rewarded with a munch on the grass in the park.
A special mention goes to the Park Keepers who helped with the parking and provision of facilities for Flora and Oonagh who paid their own tribute to Jimmy the Donkey.