As we commemorate our brave soldiers this ANZAC day, we also think about the animals who stood alongside our soldiers and played an important role both on and off the battle fields.
Dogs were specially trained to complete imperative roles on the battlefield, they carried aid to the wounded, took messages between the lines and sniffed out enemy soldiers. Dogs were also used for pulling machine guns and equipment. Whilst some dogs came from the police force, many were family pets that accompanied soldiers to the battlefields. Watchdogs were used to monitor for any approaching hostile forces, the mere twitch of an ear was enough to alert soldiers of incoming danger. In instances when all other communications had been cut, the messenger dogs delivered messages of vital importance.
Stretcher-bearers ran out onto the battlefields to dress wounds and carry the wounded to aid stations, with the assistance of dogs used to locate and help the wounded. They were trained to either stay with the injured until aid arrived, or to bring back evidence of the wounded soldier. Many of the dogs actually carried first aid kits in packs on their backs for immediate use by the wounded.
Newly uncovered records have shown that up to 20,000 dogs were trained for front-line duties during World War One. Their roles were deemed so important that in the early months of 1917 the War Office formed the War Dog School of Instruction in Hampshire to train them. Lt Col Richardson, the man in charge of running the War Dog School of Instruction, was quoted in 1918 saying, “The skill, courage and tenacity of these dogs has been amazing.”
In addition to their working role in the war, dogs were popular with soldiers from both sides, building morale and creating a feeling of home under war conditions. The bond between man and dog in the trenches is one of the truest examples of why dogs really are a man’s best friend.
We will remember them.