Big Body, Bright Brain
by Ellie, Vancouver, British Columbia

Ellie the Elephant

Elephants have helped armies since ancient times. This is because we are strong and big. My relative Bandoola could pull trees out of the ground, move heavy logs to build bridges, and carry people and supplies across rivers, mountains and rough roads. During the Second World War, he assisted Jim Williams who was the officer in charge of the British Army’s No. 1 Elephant Company in Burma (the country now called Myanmar). In the heat of the jungles, Jim worked with up to 700 elephants, each one helping the army. Sometimes the elephants pulled up trees that were sent to England where wood was needed. They also tugged heavy army trucks out of deep mud during the rainy season.

Elephants like Bandoola were important during both peace and war times for their size and strength but also because elephants (such as myself!) are smart—we can remember our training. Because we are so intelligent, we are loyal to our handlers. That is why Bandoola did his job, even when the weather was bad, and even when they were under attack in Burma.

First World War Elephant. Source: Illustrated War News, February 9, 1916

In 1944, Jim Williams heard that the enemy was coming to take his last 47 elephants and they had to escape quickly. Bandoola courageously led the others along dangerous paths through the mountains. The journey was long and hard, but on the other side of the mountains, Jim and the elephants were safe.

After the Second World War, Jim Williams wrote books about the elephants. He wanted more people to know about how incredibly strong and smart animals can be and what their contributions were to the people of Burma and the soldiers of Britain.

I know I’ll always remember what the elephants did, because like all elephants, I never forget!

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