Man vs Wild: British soldiers routed by elephants, cows & foxes
As if defeat at the hands of the Taliban and Iraqi insurgencies wasn’t enough, new figures show in recent years UK troops have been bested by elephants, snakes, cows and an irate German fox.
In the most recent incident, a soldier with the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment lost out to an elephant he encountered in a training exercise in Kenya. He was gored in the right arm as a result.
The Telegraph quoted one officer present as saying the paratrooper “was taken to hospital and we all went up to see him.”
“The lads bought him a wooden elephant as a memento,” the officer said.
In March 2015, a soldier from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment fell foul of a cow when he came between the beast and its calf. He was gored in the leg.
Infantrymen from the Parachute Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, as well as members of the Royal Anglian regiment and 1st Battalion the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders have all had recent near misses with elephants, the figures indicate.
The Freedom of Information response shows that snake bites are the most common animal-related injuries, with soldiers bitten in locations as diverse as Kenya, Belize, Canada, Sierra Leone and Italy.
A number of service personnel were also bitten in the UK by the native adder.
Perhaps the most unusual case was that of a gunner from the Germany-based 26 Regiment Royal Artillery being mauled by a fox.
It was reported that the unfortunate soldier “sustained bites and scratch marks on his back, arms and legs when he was attacked by a fox” while carrying out training alongside US troops.
The West’s War on Animals?
The British military’s war on fauna has a long history and is by no means one-sided.
During the Falklands War in 1982, it was reported that the (perhaps inappropriately named) UK warship HMS Brilliant fired on and killed three whales after mistaking them for enemy submarines.
Australia may take the prize for audacity, however, with its little-known 1932 Emu War.
Following WWI, and in the midst of both economic depression and a large Emu overpopulation problem, the Aussie government decided to take on the flightless birds using Australian and British veterans armed with machine guns.
After several failed attempts to quell the creatures the force’s commander, Major G.P.W. Meredith, remarked: “If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world.”
“They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop,” he added.
The war is widely considered to have been a stalemate, with ornithologist Dominic Serventy commenting at the time: “The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic.”