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MILITARY dogs in First World War were positioned in a variety of roles, depending on their size, intelligence and training.

Generally, the roles fell into the category of sentry dogs, scout dogs, casualty dogs, explosive dogs, ratters and mascot dogs.

Sentry dogs: These dogs were patrolled using a short lead and a firm hand.

They were trained to accompany usually one specific guard and were taught to give a ROLES OF MILITARY DOGS warning signal such as a growl, bark or snarl to indicate when an unknown or suspect presence was in the secure area such as a camp or military base.

Dobermans have traditionally been used as sentry dogs and are still widely used today as guard dogs.

Scout dogs: These dogs were highly trained and had to be of a quiet, disciplined nature.

Their role was to work with soldiers on foot patrolling the terrain ahead of them.

They were useful to the military because they could detect enemy scent up to 1,000 yards away. Instead of barking and thus drawing attention to the squad, the dogs would stiffen, raise its shackles and point its tail, which indicated that the enemy was encroaching upon the terrain.

Scout dogs were widely used because they were highly efficient in avoiding detection.

Casualty dogs: Casualty or 'Mercy' dogs were vital in First World War. Originally trained in the late 1800s by the Germans, they were later utilised across Europe.

Known as 'Sanitatshunde' in Germany, these dogs were trained to find the wounded and dying on battlefields and were equipped with medical supplies to aid those suffering.

Those soldiers who could help themselves to supplies would tend to their own wounds, whilst other more gravely wounded soldiers would seek the company of a Mercy dog to wait with them whilst they died.

Messenger dogs: Dogs were used as messengers and proved to be as reliable as soldiers in the dangerous job of running messages.

The complexities of trench warfare meant that communication was always a problem.

Field communication systems were crude and there was always the very real possibility that vital messages from the front would never get back to headquarters or vice versa.

Human runners were potentially large targets and weighed down by uniforms there was a big chance that they would not get through, particularly in the heat of battle under artillery bombardment.

Vehicles were also problematic as they could break down or the 'roads' such as they were, or what few tracks were available were regularly destroyed.

Dogs were the obvious solution to this pressing problem - faster than a human runner, less of a target to a sniper and they could travel over any terrain.

Above all, dogs proved to be extremely reliable if they were well trained.

A dog training school was established in Scotland and a recruit from this school travelled over 4,000 metres on the Western Front with an important message to a brigade's headquarters.

The dog travelled this distance (war records classed it as "very difficult" terrain) in less than 60 minutes. All other methods of communicating with the headquarters had failed - but the dog had got through.

Mascot dogs: Dogs also had another role to play on the Western Front.

For men trapped in the horrors of trench warfare, a dog in the trenches (whether a messenger dog or not) was a psychological comfort that took away, if only for a short time, the horrors they lived through.

For many soldiers on any of the sides that fought in the trenches, a dog must have reminded them of home comforts.

FROM humble beginnings Sergeant Stubby served on the Western Front in the First World War to become one of the most decorated and highly-ranked service dogs in military history.

His talents were endless from keeping injured soldiers company until help arrived on the battlefield as well as sniffing out the danger of poisonous gas or the advancing enemy.

And he was not the only dog to assist in battle.

It's estimated that by 1918, Germany had employed 30,000 dogs, Britain, France and Belgian over 20,000 and Italy 3,000.

And while America, at first, did not use dogs, except to utilise a few hundred from the Allies for specific missions, it's the story of Sgt Stubby that was to pave the way for things change.

A stray Bull Terrier cross, his first military encounter came as he wandered through an army training session at Yale Field, Connecticut After befriending the soldiers, one in particular named Corporal Robert Conroy took a shine to him.

Conroy named him Stubby, believed to be on account of his short and stubby tail.

Legend has it that Corporal Conroy was so smitten with Stubby that when it came time to ship out the Western Front, he smuggled the dog onto his vessel bound for France.

Even when he was discovered, he to to was allowed to remain with Conroy and so found himself on the Western Front in the thick of combat.

Stubby remained with the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division, known as the Yankee division and was present at many key battles, including at Chateau-Thierry, the Marne and St. Mihiel.

Sgt Stubby had a few near misses but survived a number of injuries, including those from shrapnel and gas attacks.

It is said he became so wellknown and admired that he was treated in Red Cross hospitals, as human soldiers were.

Having survived gas attacks, he became very sensitive to the smell of gas, and with his sensitive dog nose, was able to detect gas much earlier than his human comrades and alert them in time.

His acute hearing also allowed him the advantage of hearing even the quietest sounds from advancing enemy and so proved excellent at silently alerting his comrades when he could hear the enemy was near.

A major triumph was when he heard a German spy who had tried to sneak into Conroy's camp during the dead of night.

The loyal and diligent Stubby managed to grab the intruder's leg and immobilize him until Conroy and other troops came to investigate and imprison the German. Stubby also asserted himself as a 'mercy' dog, scanning the battlefields for injured soldiers and comforting them whilst they lay dying or alerting paramedics to the wounded.

The Bull Terrier was ultimately named a hero, to the point where, after the liberation of Chateau Thierry, - one of the first actions of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) under General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing - the women of the town made him a special chamois blanket, for which his many medals and service chevrons were displayed.

Stubby returned home a hero and became something of an American celebrity.

He received more medals than any other soldier dog and even outranked his owner.

Stubby was even awarded lifetime membership of the American Legion and participated in every march and convention until his death in 1926, all the while, remaining in the care of Corporal Conroy.

Such was the country's pride in Stubby that on his death, the New York Times submitted an obituary for him.

It read: "On Feb. 5, 1918, he entered the front lines of the Chemin des Dames sector, north of Soissons, where he was under fire night and day for more than a month.

"The noise and strain that shattered the nerves of many of his comrades did not impair Stubby's spirits.

"Not because he was unconscious of danger. His angry howl while a battle raged and his mad canter from one part of the lines to another indicated realization. But he seemed to know that the greatest service he could render was comfort and cheerfulness."

LOTS of dog breeds were used during First World War, but the most popular type of dogs were medium-sized, intelligent and trainable breeds.

Two in particular were used because of their superior strength, agility, territorial nature and trainability; the Doberman Pinscher and German Shepherd Dog, both native to Germany. Doberman's were used because they are both highly intelligent and easily trainable, and possess excellent guarding abilities.

Being of slight frame and extremely agile, their dark coat allowed them to slip undetected through terrain without alerting the enemy. They were employed most frequently in Germany. German Shepherd's were used also because of their strength, intelligence and trainability, being eager to please their masters.

Other breeds associated with the First World War were smaller such as terriers (pictured), who were most often employed as 'ratters'; dogs trained to hunt and kill rats in the trenches.

ADOLF Hitler kept a terrier called Fuchsl - which means Little Fox - with him in the German trenches.

It is reported that the terrier had been the mascot of English soldiers when it ventured out into No Man's Land while The dog jumped into a German trench where Hitler caught it and kept it.

He apparently taught it tricks and it never left his side until 1917 when it was stolen, allegedly by a railway official who had earlier offered 200 Marks for Hitler said he would not take 200,000 Marks for the dog, adding: "I can look at him like I look at a human being. I am crazy about him."

Later Hitler was temporarily blinded in a British gas attack in Flanders - which he may have avoided had he still had Fuchsl.

AN annual ceremony to celebrate working dogs takes place on Cannock Chase each November. Every year, Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) invites working dogs and their owners to the event. It was inspired by Freda, a Dalmatian-type dog that was the New Zealand Rifles' mascot, when the regiment was stationed on Cannock Chase during the First World War. She died in 1918, while the regiment was training on Cannock Chase, and is buried there. In memory of Freda, and dogs like her, the AONB holds a ceremony at her grave, which is off Chase Road, near Stafford. Those attending gather at Freda's grave to take part, listen to readings and poems and lay wreaths on the grave. Ruth Hytch, Cannock Chase AONB Officer, said: "This is always a popular and moving ceremony. The efforts of our working dogs are sometimes forgotten, and so this is a chance to remember them and to thank them for their loyalty and service." " Freda's grave is 0.6 miles south east of Brocton Village, near Stafford. The Milford Common Trail passes the grave. A leaflet is available from the nearby Cannock Chase Visitor Centre at Marquis Drive in Cannock Chase CountryROLES OF MILITARY DOGS


An inspection of Red Cross Dogs in Paris in 1915; Belgians decorate their dogs with hats of German soldiers, 1914; and a French Army dispatch dog jumps over a soldier in the trenches as it leaves with a message tied to his collar
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 15, 2014
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