This is Bosco the elephant who was advertised as for sale during the war by Pinder.

War Circus Stories about animals transposed from newspapers found in the British Libraries’ online archive, British Newspaper Archives; Tyne and Wear Archives, Fenwick Collection; The World’s Fair, the Showland newspaper held on microfiles at the National Fairground and Circus Archive, University of Sheffield. The American titles were found transposed online via the Circus Historical Society. Note there are many other stories about animals and about elephants in particular.

(see Lorenz Hagenbeck’s War Circus accounts of Jenny his War Elephant who was taken into the German Army; Capt. J Woodward’s Sea lions and their attempt to detect U-boats; Sir Garrard Tywhitt-Drake’s many animals including Poliu the War Lion.  as well as War Circus Snippets articles.)





              An interesting member of his Majesty’s Fleet paid a visit to Harwich on Tuesday afternoon, and for the sake of variety made part of the journey on the roof of a railway carriage (says the special correspondent of the “Daily Mail”).

   Jacko, the pet monkey of H.M.S. Loyal has been in three wars, and he is accustomed to their alarms. Born in South Africa during the Boer War he was made the pet of a regiment, and was with the troops in two or three battlefields. A seaman fathered him and took him afloat. He went to the China station, and was with the naval brigade in the operations which avenged the Boxer rebellion. Back to sea, he went from ship to ship, and he was in the Loyal during the recent engagement with four German destroyers. Being an old soldier, he then took refuge in the fish kettle on the topmost shelf of the cook’s galley, emerging quite hearty when the shooting was over.

   He behaves with naval punctilio. He does a sort of cutlass drill and he salutes. But this mark of respect he reserves for his personal friends. A stoker might receive it, and a commodore be treated with disdain.

   Jacko is a grass monkey from South Africa with button eyes, an eager, aggressive face, and a long and most prehensile tail. The

31/10/1914 World’s Fair




   We have for many years been interested in performing animals and the sagacity of some of them has often made us marvel.


   And the following shows how truly human some animals are:


   Mr. Badderley, a Leicester school-master, received on Saturday a letter from a former pupil, a lance-corporal at the front, who writes: “One of our horses is a candidate for the Victoria Cross. It is a true story of animal devotion.


   “The troops were charging at the time, and as one rider fell from his horse, wounded, the animal picked him up with his mouth by his clothes and carried him away to safety, where other men of the regiment were resting.”

27/3/1915 The World’s Fair





Miss Angela Gavine, who has trained a horse, wounded on the battlefield, to do circus work. The animal was discharged from the Army, and was to have been shot as un-managable.

28/9/1915 Daily Mirror

“Battlefield Bess” is one of the four surviving heroic horses from the Battle of Mons, and is now touring under the direction of Mr. J. D. Bate, the genial agent and side show proprietor. The horse is covered with scars and marks from bullets and shrapnel, and was in a terribly nervous state when first obtained by Lady Angela Gavine who is seen in the animal’s back in one of their poses, together with the beautiful St. Bernard dog.

12/2/1916 The World’s Fair






    There is such a great dearth of carting facilities in Sheffield that one of the big firms has pressed Sedgwick’s elephant into service, and last week it was seen striding along with ease drawing a load of iron to a munition works. The weight of the load was equal to that usually allowed to three horses.

Some passing horses were startled by this unexpected “dilution” of their labour, and sniffed and shied as the elephant passed.

5/2/1916 The World’s Fair




A campaign is being waged against giraffes, which have been destroying our telegraphs by scratching their necks on the wire.—Report of East African Campaign.

No one who has travelled in Equatorial Africa will be surprised to read that General Smuts is continually inconvenienced by wild animals, for that region is one vast natural preserve of big game (says a correspondent of the “Times”). General Smuts seems so far to have been harassed by lions and giraffes, and it is satisfactory that there has been no reference to wild elephants, which might have been expected by those who know their destructive habit to give more trouble than either. The lions managed on one occasion to besiege him in his motor car, with developments reminiscent of Colonel Patterson’s encounters with the man-eaters of Tsavo. The giraffe has long enjoyed special protection in British Territory. It is altogether taboo to the sportsman in several provinces of British East Africa, notable round Fort Hall and Mount Kenia, and even elsewhere a special license to kill a bull costs150 rupees (£10)

Wild elephants on the other hand, which are also rigorously protected— a license to shoot a brace costs £30— are even more hardened sinners in this matter of destroying telegraph wires, and cannot, unfortunately be scared as easily as giraffes. They are not, indeed, content with merely pulling down the wires, but in their rage they uproot the posts;

   It is to be hoped that the elephants may not follow the example of the giraffes in the war area, as the temptation of ivory might prove too strong for a mild policy of driving them off. There has been of late years more than enough ivory-poaching in that region without such further toll.

3/6/1916 The World’s Fair



   The Zoo has a new interest to-day. It has become a hostel for regimental mascots. Largely the public is to blame for this flux of mascots. People hear, for example, that a Welsh unit is entitled to march with a goat at it’s head; and forth-with the quartermaster’s office becomes like a scene in a Swiss Valley. But when thoughtful and kind-hearted people send bears to the Canadians it becomes a question at last of one half of the battalion protecting the other half while on parade- or the Zoo.

   As for deer and gazelles, regiments which had badges with suggestions of these creature might have had venison twice a week. There is a little herd of mascots (horned game) now deposited at the Zoo, and no less than six black bears.

   There is also Bill. Bill recently sat in his cage looking so sad, haughty, and lonely that a lady suggested that perhaps he was only just caught and was thinking of bananas and orchids and palm trees.

   “Not ‘e, mum,” murmured a sailor who had just come up. “ ‘E’s thinking of the Battle of Jutland. ‘E ain’t got over it yet.”

   At that moment Bill caught sight of the sailor’s cap, made joyous sounds and played a tattoo on the netting with the soles of his feet. The spectators fell back respectfully at this show of emotion between old friends.

   “Bill,” whispered the sailor, “action stations.”

   Bill gave a wild cry, fell over back-wards and was in the furthermost corner of the cage in two grand leaps.

4/11/1916 The World’s Fair





   How the murder of a Chinese conjuror was revealed and the alleged murderer identified through the actions of an intelligent monkey belonging to the dead man is related by the “Singapore Free Press.”

   Resting on a Malay hut after a performance on a rubber estate near Taiping the conjuror was attacked, killed, and robbed, the body afterwards being dragged out and buried. The murder apparently was witnessed by the monkey, which took refuge in the rafters.

   Later a European walking some distance from the hut was surprised by a monkey coming towards him and pulling at the leg of his trousers. He tried to drive the animal away by kicking it, but it persisted in clawing at his legs and then trotted a little way ahead and looking back to see if it was being followed.

   Finally the man followed the monkey to a mound of freshly turned earth, which it began to scratch up. The man informed the police, who dug up the soil and found the mutilated body of the monkey’s master.

   Suspicion fell upon a Malay, who on being brought up at the police station with a number of other men was immediately attacked with great fury by the monkey, which was with difficulty prevented from doing him an injury. The Malays’s guilt has yet to be established by the court.

27/1/1917 The World’s Fair



   Mr. Henry Wood, the United Press correspondent with the Russian Army on the French front, mentions that the mascot of one of the Russian regiments is a huge bear from the Caucasians. When the time comes for the men to go in the front line trenches for its six days of duty the bear goes along. He keeps the all night vigils with the sentinels, and as there is nothing else to eat on the front line trenches except the regular rations that are brought up from the rear he permits the soldiers to divide their share with him. When the bear has finished his time in the front line trenches along with he regiment he accompanies the latter back to the rear for the customary six days of repose.

The World’s Fair



   The only animals at the Zoo who give voice during a night air raid are the lions, wolves, and jackals. The hullabaloo of the wolves and jackals has a note in it of acute distress and fear, but the lions, as one of their keepers has assured me (writes Twells Brex in the Daily Mail”), “roar out of excitement and jealousy of the guns more than anything else. In fact, it’s a sort of song and they sing loudest when the raids are over. The cranes are the only birds that show disturbance. “They make a rare clatter,” says their keeper, “but that signifies nothing with cranes— they shout their heads off every time a barge passes on the Regent’s Canal!’’

   The only animals that show “nerves” next day are the monkeys and the gazelles. One would expect it of gazelles; they have a character for timidity they must live up to. Otherwise, after a raid, the Zoo keepers have “nothing to report.” The keeper of the elephants, indeed, declares that a thunderstorm upsets them much more than a raid. …


If the people in the cages are unperturbed, raid nights, the writer adds, give anxious hours to their guardians. Sometimes I think that the night watchman at the Zoo is the bravest man in Britain. For it is his duty immediately after a night raid to go round the Zoo all in the lonely dim moonlight, to see whether any damage has been done by bomb “duds” and whether any of the Zoo people— including the rattlesnake, who lives behind plate-glass— have “got loose…”

27/10/1917 The World’s Fair





   General Northey’s despatch has recently drawn attention to Nyasaland which has served as a base for a portion of the British forces operating in “German” East Africa. Some of the administrators went over the border to help administer the conquered territories, and it would almost seem as though the Germans were allied with the brute creation, for one of these administrators on his return found his village being vigorously warred upon by lions, and up to the date of the last mail (says the “Field”) the British were still acting on the defensive. The extracts given below speak for themselves:

   “ I meant to write to you by today’s post but lions interfered, as when I got to the office at two I was told six lions had been seen about two miles out. Last night or rather evening— 5-30— the mother of one of my rickshaw boys was taken on the road, but I did not hear of it in time to get after them. This is the fourth victim in a week, so I’m anxious to do them in as the town is getting panicky, and it’s upsetting my grain convoys.”

24/11/1917 The World’s Fair






   The real war horse has quite a long education before he is proficient, an education (writes “S.M.” in the “Daily Mail”) almost as severe and certainly as comprehensive as that of the recruit who ultimately rides him into battle.

   The well-bred cavalry horse possesses a highly strung nervous system, but when properly trained he will face barbed wire and even an entanglement when put to it, regardless of lacerated legs and flanks. But his education is begun carefully, or he may be ruined by a few careless lessons.

   His education must not begin too soon after being brought to camp, or his legs will not stand the strain, and the first step is the most important. If he is terror-stricken or if his temper is aroused he may never get over the incident. He is walked around free from the leading rein, and after he has been accustomed to have a man mount rapidly on his sensitive back he is taught to kneel with his rider.

13/7/1918 The World’s Fair


There is a Pathé Film about War Elephants from Lord Sangar’s Circus at Horley, 1917