Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Have a smoke

Cigarette dog

Red Cross dogs

During WWI, vast numbers of dogs were employed as sentries, messengers, ammunition, pigeons and food carrier,  scouts, sled dogs, draught dogs, guard dogs, ambulance dogs, ratters, Red Cross casualty dogs and even cigarette dogs.
It's estimated that Germany alone employed over 30,000 dogs for such purposes and about.20,000 served with the French Army, the Italians fielded 3,000 dogs for the Allies, the British, Belgians and the Russians thousands more!
Many different breeds saw active duty during the war depending on the job at hand. Bulldogs, Bloodhounds, Farm Collies, Retrievers, Dobermans, Airedales, Jack Russell and Wired Fox Terriers, Sheepdogs and German Shepherds were all used in a variety of roles. Purebreds did not have any advantage over mixed breeds.  What was important was that they displayed the proper character, had acute hearing and scent, sagacity, fidelity and a strong sense of duty.
Preferred were dogs of medium build and greyish or black in colour, with good eyesight and a keen sense of smell. But the temperament and disposition of the dog usually came first!
Two of the more unusual dogs that were used during the Great War, were the ratters and the YMCA cigarette dogs. Ratters were the terriers, whose natural instincts helped to keep the rat infested muddy trenches clear.  The small Cigarette Dogs, sponsored by the YMCA, had the task of delivering cartons of cigarettes to the troops, stationed on the front lines.
Thousands of soldiers, on both sides, owe their lives to these remarkable animals.

1 comment:

Winchester whisperer said...

It would be interesting to hear a few dogs' accounts of their war service.