In official army documents published online Thursday by the National Archives, three animals were observed to repeatedly cross British trenches. This led officers to believe the cats and dog were “planted by the Germans in order to relay messages across enemy lines.”
“Two cats and a dog are under suspicion, as they have been in the habit of crossing our trenches at night; steps are being taken to trap them if possible,” read the report which was filed in an intelligence briefing in July 1915.
While plans were taken to “trap the animals if possible,” the report does not state whether the animals were detained on the suspicion of spying.
“The case of the dog and two cats, shows the level of suspicion amongst military units at this time,” said David Langrish, a records specialist for the National Archives in an interview with The Telegraph. “Every detail was of potential importance for the planning of further operations, and so every possible suspicion would have been reported.”
“The war saw new weapons, new tactics and new methods of conducting warfare, some of which were unimaginable a few years before. While the report about the cats and dogs is a less serious example, it shows the very extreme experiences of time in the front lines,” Langrish said.
In another report released on Thursday, the Germans reportedly sent a paper kite across British lines with “abusive messages” written on them.
“Englishmen, how badly you shoot!… You Englishmen – we have wine, sausage, and meat – your Englishmen are hungry and thirsty… You stupid soldiers!”
This is the second batch of WWI diaries to be released by the by The National Archives in Kew, London. The first batch was released in January. To date, nearly 4,000 unit war diaries have been published online.
Animals have a long history of serving bizarre roles in the military or government.
In the U.S. Navy, for example, dolphins have been trained to detect, locate and mark mines as well as suspicious swimmers and divers. The highly intelligent animals have been part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program for more than 40 years.
In another example of attempting to turn an ordinary domestic cat into a spy, in 1961, the CIA implanted a microphone into a cat’s ear, a small radio transmitter at the base of the cat’s skull and weaved a thin antenna into the animal’s fur.
According to 2001 interview with a former CIA officer, officials hoped “Acoustic Kitty” could listen to secret conversations.
For its first field test, CIA staffers drove the animal to a park. As the cat was put out of the vehicle and wandered onto the road, it was immediately hit and killed by a taxi.
Training and surgery expenses are said to have amounted to over $25 million.
“Acoustic Kitty” was declared a failure and the project was cancelled in 1967.