By Paul Breen, Office Volunteer
On the junction of Manor Mews and Cambridge Avenue, just off the Kilburn High Road in London, is the RSPCA Animals War Memorial Dispensary, a building dedicated to those animals that died in The First World War.
The Animals War Memorial Dispensary is an attractive 19th Century two storey building with shuttered windows to the upper floor and stone tablets either side of the front door. The tablets, which can be read by all who enter the building, record the fact that nearly half a million animals met their deaths during the First World War and that approximately three quarters of a million animals of all descriptions, including hundreds of dogs and carrier pigeons, were treated in France at RSPCA field hospitals.
Above the front door is a large bronze plaque depicting the figure of winged Victory, holding wreaths in each hand, surrounded by pairs of animals including horses, elephants, dogs, oxen, mules, and camels. The plaque was the creation of Frederick Brook Hitch, FRSBS, who was also responsible for the National Submarine War Memorial (1922) on the Victoria Embankment and the statue of Charles Wesley (1939) at the Methodist Chapel in Bristol, as well as a number of other commissions world- wide. His brother, John Oliver Brook Hitch MC, was the architect responsible for the conversion of the building to an animal dispensary.
The dispensary was opened on 10th November 1932 by Frances Evelyn ‘Daisy’ Greville, Countess of Warwick: a well known animal lover, the Countess kept a menagerie of birds and animals on her estate at Easton Lodge near Great Dunmow in Essex.
In its opening year the dispensary treated over 6,000 animals and still functions today as a busy clinic for sick animals, fulfilling the RSPCA’s founding intention that it act as ‘a memorial that would benefit living animals’. It is now Grade II listed and is a unique building to the memory of animals killed in the First World War. The dedication of the building is made more poignant by the request it makes for us to show kindness and consideration to animals in the present day.