Tag Archives: dogs of war

Amazing, True Stories of WW1 Dogs via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #war #WW1 #truestory #history #LestWeForget

If you read my previous posts you surely discovered the incredible variety of tasks dogs performed, willingly, during the Great War. No matter their size or breed, dogs found a place in the hearts of the troops, saving a great deal of lives in between.

Dogs have been man’s best friend for over 150 000 years, they offered comfort during peaceful times and support during battles. We saw how indispensable dogs proved to be in wars and why, how they helped soldiers in the trenches, how they wagged their tails as scouts and ambulance dogs and how saved lives as brave sled dogs during the Great War.

Some dogs were just mascots, others acted as real soldiers.

WW1 True Story: Steif, a mixed-breed German dog, saves the life of his master, Lieutenant von Wieland

During the German campaign on the Eastern front, a lieutenant leading an attack fell under the heavy Russian fire. Heavily wounded and unable to move, he sent back his men. At the same time back in the trenches, the lieutenant’s own dog, a Great Dane – Mastiff – hound mix, had gnawed his leash to set himself free. Steif, the dog, dashed o his master’s side through the rain of bullets and, with love and determination, he pulled the severely wounded man to safety. The dog only lost his grip once, when a bullet “creased” him from shoulder to flank. Right at the end, when his master was safe, another bullet penetrated the dog’s front legs, braking them.

Steif and Lieutenant von Wieland
Steif and Lieutenant von Wieland

Man and dog were rushed to the hospital and were both operated on. Wilhelm II, the German Kaiser (emperor) and king of Prussia came to their hospital bed and awarded each, man and dog, an Iron Cross ( military decoration instituted in 1813 by Frederick William III).

This is their true story, as told to Kaiser Willem II:

“Lieutenant von Wieland led a party of men in an attack on the Russian trenches. Seeing the task hopeless on account of the Russian fire, he, wounded, sent back the men who had set out with him and lay there in the blood and muck and filth of the battlefield: The Russian fire was so murderous that no one dared bring him in. Presently a dark form bounded from the German trenches, rushed to Lieutenant von Wieland’s side, grasped his coat between his teeth and, foot by foot, dragged him to safety. Once, but only for a moment, did he loosen his hold, and that was when a bullet creased him from shoulder to flank. The blood gushed from the wound, but the dog took a fresh hold and finished his job at the edge of the trench where willing hands lifted the lieutenant down to safety. They had to lift the dog down, too, because just then a bullet broke both his forelegs.”

WW1 True Story: Messenger dog Satan helped the Allied forces

Battle of Verdun took place between German and French soldiers on the Western Front between February and December in 1916, and more than 300,000 men lost their lives.

A section of French soldiers, outgunned and outnumbered, were ordered to hold out their area until reinforcements arrived. Yet days passed.

Their eyes cats on no man’s land, expecting death to rush towards them at any moment, the soldiers were stunned to see a blackish dog wearing a gas mask heading their way. Dog handler Duvalle recognized his boy, Satan, arriving with a vital message.

Satan the dog saved a contingent of French soldiers at the Battle of Verdun
Satan the dog saved a contingent of French soldiers at the Battle of Verdun

That’s when the German’s spotted Satan and opened all available fire on him in a desperate attempt to stop the messenger.

Duvalle called and encouraged his dog, urging him to push forward and directing him over the open death trap that was the battlefield, reminding him what they both learned during their training. The dog began running in a zigzag pattern to avoid the impact of the bullets.

Just meters before the French trenches two bullets found Satan causing the brave canine to crash in the dirt. His master could not take it and sprang from the trench, calling and encouraging his brave companion. ‘Satan – have courage my friend. For France!’ – were his last words yet they echoed into the dog’s heart who miraculously crawled to the French trenches, delivering his message of hope:

‘For God’s sake hold on. We will relieve you tomorrow.’

The astounded French soldiers noticed that Satan had been fitted with two wire cages to his harness, each containing a messenger pigeon. Quickly, an officer penned the co-ordinates of the German artillery onto two pieces of paper. Luckily, one pigeon made it through the German fire and back to the French HQ.

Only one hour later the German battery fell silent, minced by the French guns a short distance away.

‘The garrison was able to hold out until reinforcements came all because one hairy mongrel refused to die while his errand was still uncompleted and because he was too loyal to quit.’  (Albert Peyson Terhune, American War Reporter)

WW1 True Story: Taki, first war dog to carry messages for the Allies in World War 1

Taki was a Belgian Sheepdog (Belgian Malinois).

If you wonder, this is the difference between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois dog.
If you wonder, this is the difference between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois dog.

It was 1914 and the German troops, on their way to occupy UK, were rolling through Belgium. A unit of French Army found itself stranded between a river and the Germans. They were desperate to send message and call for reinforcements. Who will dare brave the bullets?

Taki, the youngest of the trained dogs volunteered. Or was chosen.

Messenger dogs training.
Messenger dogs training.

 A message was written in code and placed into a waterproof capsule that Taki had been trained to carry in her mouth. She left and everyone prayed.

Taki successfully went through the shell-worn fields, under a rain of Nazi bullets and poisonous gas and, soon enough, help arrived.

Messenger dog with its handler, in France, during World War I
Messenger dog with its handler, in France, during World War I

I hope you enjoyed the blog posts about dogs and the incredible help they gave during WW1.

Come back for new stories about the role of dogs during WW2 and so forth.

Do check out my book Joyful Trouble, A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he had found his true, yet unexpected calling. It is a book for all ages.

Joyful Trouble, Amazon Bestseller in eBook and paperback format
Joyful Trouble, Amazon Bestseller in eBook and paperback format

My adult fiction book, Silent Heroes, is a #1 New Release, a contemporary fiction novel,  filled with action and emotional twists and turns. “Silent Heroes” has a strong historical and cultural feel of the area when the action takes place, Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Faith Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Faith Are Worth Fighting for
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Why dogs Were so indispensable during warfare AND how dog training began via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #wardogs #war

It was 1895 when Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson, a Scot military man, noticed a German man buying a sheepdog from a shepherd.On engaging the two, Richardson learns that the German army was buying British collies to train and use in their own military service.

On engaging the two, Richardson learns that the German army was buying British collies to train and use in their own military service.

German Imperial Army
German Imperial Army

In the eve of WW1 Richardson and his wife Blanche Bannon, both dog lovers, were already training dogs. Soon the military asked them to begin a British War Dogs training school in Shoeburyness, Essex. The Richardsons trained hundreds of hounds for military service during both world wars.

Richardson particularly liked the Airedale Terrier.

Edwin Richardson trained Airedale terriers for the police in Glasgow before supplying canine recruits for World War One.
Edwin Richardson trained Airedale terriers for the police in Glasgow before supplying canine recruits for World War One.

“They’re very determined. They’re very single-minded and there’s no stopping them.”

Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson

Right about this time, but a woman, her dog and her Harley-Davidson Motorcycle took the journey of a lifetime.

While in Europe Airedale Terriers were even taught to use gas masks as part of their military service.

Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service -Getty source
Airedale Terriers were taught to use gas masks as part of their military service -Getty source

The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front.

“The dead and badly wounded are easily found; they lay where they fought; but the lightly wounded, those that had still strength to crawl and hunt shelter or water to quell their thirst, are the ones that te hospital corps is apt to miss. Speaking from the viewpoint of military efficiency these slightly wounded are the very soldiers that should be specially cared for, for on their speedy recovery they may prove in a long-drawn-out war the deciding factor that will end it, when they have again returned to the fighting line. Good Red Cross Dogs will quickly clear a battle-ground of all wounded soldiers.”

(Scout, Red Cross Army Dogs)
The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front - Getty source
The dogs were also trained to carry first aid and supplies for soldiers at the front – Getty source

Richardson even paid unemployed locals to pretend being injured or dead people, lying around the dunes, and helping the dogs to train.

“We also served” is the special bandana of The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.

"We also served" -The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.
“We also served” -The Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland today.

Richardson’s contribution to the development of the military and Red Cross dog units was in-commensurable through his assiduous research, work and dedication towards canines. The first Army Dog School in England, at the start of The Great War, would not have been possible without his work.

Before his aid was required at the beginning of the Great War, the fame of Richardson’s highly trained dogs had reached far away, as proved by his services being required by Sultan Abdul Hamid, Empress Eugenie, of Bulgaria, the Abor expedition in India, the Gordon Highlanders, the Norfolk Regiment, and the King’s Durham Light Infantry, and Queen Mary on the eve of WW1.

Why were dogs so indispensable during warfare?

There is nothing like a dog’s loyalty and determination. Once a dog is taught a s skill, he will be happy to apply it to please his human master and friend.

It is our responsibility to be mindful of what we teach our dogs for they will do anything we ask them in order to make us happy.

A helpful dog
Helpful dog

Once a dog knows his destination he will get there at all costs. Pigeons cannot be sent in a fog or in the dark. Dogs will go in all weathers and at all times. During heavy bombardment by the enemy the casualties among the runners (soldiers sent to deliver messages) are heavy, especially when they have to cross n pen field where they are exposed to snipers, machine gun fire, or a heavy barrage. A runner would take two or three hours to do a journey from the trenches, while a dog only half an hour or less.

Richardson on training the his war dogs:

“The drill yesterday began with an obstacle race by a squad well advanced in training. Across the road were placed a barbed wire fence and a few yards further on a hurdle, and beyond that a barrier made of branches of trees. The dogs were taken about a mile up the road and then released. There was a great race for home. The bigger dogs leapt clear of all the obstructions; the smaller ones wriggled their way through; but two wily sheep dogs, strictly in accordance with the rules of the game preferred to leap a ditch and make a detour, arriving home as quickly as the others.

Novices who go astray in these and other test are never punished. They are caught by the keepers and gently led back for another try.”

Airedale Terriers of War
Airedale Terriers of War

Sadly, most of the Dog Messenger Service heroes are anonymous as officially they were known only by the numbers on the collars.

Dogs, the Silent Heroes of World War One

After some trial and error, medium sized dogs with grey or black fur were preferred, with good eyesight and “character”. Breeds varies, from a cross between a bulldog and a mastiff to German shepherds, retrievers, pointers and large Airedale terriers.

But above all, “character and training” was wanted.

We saw how dogs became man’s best friend.

How well dogs helped during the Great War and the Second World War we will see soon, as well as finding amazing stories about dog war mascots and other mongrels.

Do return to find out.

My latest book is‘Silent Heroes’, a highly emotional read, action-packed, a vivid story of enormous sacrifice and bravery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It is a book extremely well researched, with authentic details and an epic sense of the place. The war and the military involved, Marines and dogs, are described with reverence, as are the civilians caught in the middle of the fire.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for
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