Alice Dryden (huskyteer) wrote,
Alice Dryden

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What Did You Do in the Great War, Doggy?

Having some time to kill on Friday, I visited the Dogs in War exhibition at the Kennel Club's art gallery near Green Park.

It's probably not worth the £2.50 entrance fee, but a pleasurable half hour or so. Exhibits range from the poignant (collars of departed dogs sporting the Dickin Medal, the 'animals' Victoria Cross') to the hilarious (advertisements for gasproof kennels and doggie blackout coats). There's footage of huskies pulling wounded men on sleds. And there are many photos of canine heroes in action and at rest.

What did - and do - dogs do in wartime? They deliver messages, guard property, locate wounded soldiers and search bombed areas for buried survivors. They pull ammunition carts and carry First Aid supplies. A great deal, considering that human conflict has nothing to do with them.

In the Second World War, owners of suitable breeds donated their dogs to the war effort for the duration. After the war ended, every dog's family was sent a certificate thanking them for Jerry's or Nipper's contribution - some, unfortunately, had to receive a telegram informing them of their dog's death in service. Dog owners also collected their pets' hair and sent it off to be spun into wool for hospital blankets.

Above all, dogs provide comfort and companionship to the hurt, the lonely and the frightened. Look at any collection of photographs from the First World War in particular and you'll spot a dog soon enough. It seems as if every ship, every squadron and every trench had a collection of stray mutts who came in search of food and found themselves adopted as mascots and friends. For men in danger and far from their loved ones, a dog could do no greater service.

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