Tag Archives: WW1

Amazing Roles Dogs Played during WW1, part 2: Scouts, Sentries, Ambulance and Messenger Dogs via @patfurstenberg, #dogs #WW1 #history

During the Great War the military dogs first trained by military Scotsman Lt Col Edwin Hautenville Richardson proved invaluable as trench dogs. Other dogs of smaller size, did an amazing job as ratters.

Dogs used as scouts during WW1

These dogs were trained to point when an intruder was spotted (sniffed) and not bark since secrecy was the key to these missions. They could detect enemy scent up to 1000 yards away.

Scout dogs were trained to stiffen, raise their hackles and point their ail, thus indicated that an enemy was approaching.

Germans were the first to use scout dogs, sending them over no man’s land to spy on Allies’ positions.

Scout and dog patrol. Source metropostcard
Scout and dog patrol. Source metropostcard

Dogs used as sentries or guards

These dogs were invaluable especially during the night when they would prevent any night surprises coming from the enemy.

Either in the front lines, to guard against enemy incursions, or guarding important facilities or locations behind the lines together with their handler, dogs proved priceless.

A sentry dog watching after a soldier
A sentry dog watching after a soldier

They were trained to give a warning signal such as a growl, or snarl to indicate a suspect presence.

Sometimes dogs even worked alone in a trench, especially at night, to watch out for enemy activity while the humans rested.

Messenger dogs of WW1

Give their small size and speed, dogs soon proved to be much better at delivering messages than any human, especially when any other mean of communication was cut off or the battle was taking place in an inhospitable land, such as the jungles of Pacific Islands.

WW1 British messenger dogs and their handler
WW1 British messenger dogs and their handler

Dogs also braved the bullets, showing much determination in getting the job done.

The dogs were trained to ignore the fire of guns of all calibers, and were accustomed to the explosion of hand grenades near them.

A messenger dog during WW1
A messenger dog during WW1

Sometimes messenger dogs carried… other messengers.

Carrier pigeons in cages on back Airedales terrier WW1
Carrier pigeons in cages on back Airedales terrier WW1

Other dogs were trained as Ambulance or Casualty Dogs, Red Cross Dogs or Mercy Dogs

Although still informal, dogs helped a great deal during the Great War. It is believed that on both sides 10 000 dogs served in the Red Cross and these dogs undertook the most severe training.

A Red Cross dog trained to search for wounded soldiers while under fire, 1915.
A Red Cross dog trained to search for wounded soldiers while under fire, 1915.

One of my favorite pictures from the Great War depicts two canine buddies walking side by side, two Red Cross dogs.

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

Were they a team? One carrying medical supplies, the other one, with a gas mask on, trained to jump in the trenches, checking for the wounded soldiers? Were they taking strength from each other? Their body language tells me they were happy, determined on their task.

Germans were the first to begin training Ambulance Dogs, Sanitatshunde, in 1893.

A German Sanitatshunde - Red Cross Dog. WW1. Source Metropostcard
A German Sanitatshunde – Red Cross Dog. WW1. Source Metropostcard

“First Aid Dogs” were trained not to bark when they found a disabled soldier and to disregard dead soldiers. On locating a wounded soldier, the dog was trained to get close enough so that the soldier may open the first aid box the dog carried. Then the canine would tear a piece of the uniform or retrieve the soldier’s cap back to the kennel – to identify the fallen soldier.

A Red Cross dog taking a kepi from a wounded soldier back to the stretcher-bearer for identification of the wounded, The Great War
A Red Cross dog taking a kepi from a wounded soldier back to the stretcher-bearer for identification of the wounded, The Great War

Returned to the kennel the dog would bark and head back, showing he found an injured soldier.

Of course, this was in theory and real life situations forced a change in the way the Red Cross Dogs were trained as sometimes there was no cap and the loosest thing a dog chose to remove was often a bandage. Eventually dogs were fitted with a loose collar which they could grab and hold in their mouth as a sign they found a wounded soldier.

In the aftermath of a battle, the Red Cross dogs would localize the wounded and wait by their side for the stretcher bearers to arrive and pick up the soldier, transporting him to a hospital.

France, WW1. A training picture here shows a dog waiting for stretcher bearers where the wounded are lying. source doglowreporter
France, WW1. A training picture here shows a dog waiting for stretcher bearers where the wounded are lying. source doglowreporter

What is amazing is that dogs were indeed trained to recognize uniforms in order to tell friend from foe.

Mercy or Ambulance Dogs of WW1
Mercy or Ambulance Dogs of WW1

England, France, Russia and Germany – they all used military dogs trained for the the same purposes. And, true to their nature, the dogs often did more than it was expected from them.

Although some dogs were trained as messengers, when a buddy was in need they didn’t shied away from the task.

Prusco, a French dog that looked like a white wolf, is said to have saved more than a hundred men. On another occasion he dragged three wounded soldiers to a safe place, out of enemy fire, where they could wait to be removed from the battlefield.

The French war-dog Prusco was employed in carrying messages from a motor-cycle scout to headquarters. This dog and his companions penetrated the enemy lines on many occasions.
The French war-dog Prusco was employed in carrying messages from a motor-cycle scout to headquarters. This dog and his companions penetrated the enemy lines on many occasions.

Italians trained some of their dogs to carry ammunition over hard to reach mountain passes by means of a harness and strapped to their backs.

Dogs carrying ammunition strapped to their backs. Source metropostcard.
Dogs carrying ammunition strapped to their backs. Source metropostcard.

In France, WW1 saw the boom of the “Societe Nationale des Chiens Sanitaires” in France.

Allied soldier bandages the paw of a Red Cross medic-dog in Belgium, 1917.
Allied soldier bandages the paw of a Red Cross medic-dog in Belgium, 1917.

Of course, war propaganda was quick on picking up the civilian’s interest in war dogs, these silent heroes, and use it as this French postcards shows. This postcard (bellow) was banned in 1915 because censors felt its cruel spirit was demeaning to France.

French propaganda postcard of WW1
French propaganda postcard of WW1

So far we saw how the friendship between humans and dog started, some 26 000 years ago. we saw how dogs joined kings in battles and why dogs are so indispensable during war. We saw how dogs helped in the trenches. Next time we will look at dogs who pulled machine guns and sleigh and then at some mascot dogs of WW1 and WW2 as well as how the role dogs plaid during the Second World War changed. And we won’t stop there, so be sure to return and check new blog posts.

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
Joyful Trouble, a book that reads like a movie

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 Values Are Worth Fighting for
Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for – New Contemporary Fiction by Patricia Furstenberg
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Amazing Roles Dogs Played During WW1, part 1: Dogs in Trenches and Ratter Dogs via @PatFurstenberg #dogs #war #trenches #ratters #history

Although still informal, dogs helped a great deal during the Great War.

“War is hell”, said Union Army General Sherman referring to the Civil War, but he could have just as well referred to the Great War, a war of trenches, these narrow vertical graves that, ironically, are traced back to the Civil War.

A war pup and his soldier friend
A war pup and his soldier friend

Stuck in them for weeks at a time, dealing with cold, wet feet, disease, “mustard gas” (a poisonous gas), dead bodies; trapped between bayonets and deadly bullets from “no man’s land”, soldiers had little to hope for.

Soon enough, the military dogs that accompanied some regiments proved that were able not only to lift the soldier’s moral, but to save lives at the same time.

Dogs in trenches during the Great War

During one night in the French front trenches all the dogs present became suddenly uneasy. They were growling and were extremely agitated.

The soldiers knew their army dogs and their body language so they telephoned the main entrenchment for reinforcement. Less than half an hour after support arrived, the Germans attacked.

How did the dogs knew? Have they heard the Germans preparing for an attack in their trenches?

Dogs can hear a wider frequency noises than humans.

When humans hear noises in the sound wave range of 64–23,000 Hz (bass to high pitched), dogs can hear in the range 67–45,000 Hz (a much wider frequency).

Added to this there is the loudness of the sound, measured in decibels and dogs can hear sounds so quiet (at 5-15 dB) that human can’t perceive them (a whisper measures at 20 dB).

Captain with dog in trenches 1914
Captain with dog in trenches 1914

What about the dog’s ability to smell?

Have they discerned a sudden increase in gun powder scent rising from the German trenches or a sudden increase in body odor due to a combination of excitement/fear ahead of an attack and added number of soldiers?

A dog’s nose is so sensitive that even scientists struggle to quantify it. It is estimated that a dog can smell between 1 000 to 100 000 times better than a human plus dogs can smell each component in an odor. In proportion to its size, a dog’s brain has an area dedicate to smell analysis that is four times bigger than that of the human’s brain.

Ratter dogs during WW1

We need to keep in mind that WW1 was a war fought in the trenches. Soldiers lived there for many weeks at a time, facilities were nearby, food was available, wounded or dead corpses were sometimes at close quarters.

A Scottish Regiment and their Ratter Dog in the trenches of WW1
A Scottish Regiment and their Ratter Dog in the trenches of WW1

Rats were a daily reality of WW1. Small dogs were therefor kept in the trenches as “ratters”. Soldiers living in trenches encountered millions of pests during war including rats They fed on rotting food because there was no proper way of getting rid of rubbish in trenches A terrier dog shows off its catch after a 15 minute rat hunt.

Soldiers living in trenches encountered millions of pests during war including rats They fed on rotting food bc there was no proper way of getting rid of rubbish in trenches A terrier dog shows off its catch after a 15 minute rat hunt -source BBC
Soldiers living in trenches encountered millions of pests during war including rats They fed on rotting food because there was no proper way of getting rid of rubbish in trenches A terrier dog shows off its catch after a 15 minute rat hunt -source BBC

We saw why dogs were so indispensable during the war, as well as some of the tasks they had performed during WW1.

Come back to find out more about World War 1 dog scouts, sentries, Red Cross, messenger, mascots as well as the World War 2 dogs.

Two of my books are about dogs at war.

Joyful Trouble is a book for all ages.

Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy
Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy – World War 2

Silent Heroes is adult fiction about the war in Afghanistan.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting
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A Harley-Davidson, Brave Della Crewe and Trouble the Dog via @PatFurstenberg, #travel, #adventure, #bravewomen, #dogs

In 1914, three years before New York state constitution granted women suffrage and only eleven years after the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Factory first opened its gates in a small shed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Della Crewe, a 29 young woman with a flair for adventure, took a trip around the world (or around the United States) on a Harley-Davidson bike with a sidecar. With her travelled her beloved dog, Trouble, a Boston bull pup.

“Trouble is the only trouble I will have with me on this trip.”

It all started the year before, in 1913, when Miss Della Crewe bought a new 1913 Harley-Davidson single-cylinder bike that she enjoyed riding around her home town, Waco, Texas. Next year she traded the Davidson single-cylinder for a twin, and added a sidecar to it. And she took off.

Della Crewe and her dog Trouble. There is a disk brake on the front wheel of her bike - it is actually a Corbin speedometer / odometer.
Della Crewe and her dog Trouble. There is a disk brake on the front wheel of her bike – it is actually a Corbin speedometer / odometer.

First she stopped in Dodge City, Kansas for a motorcycle race. We need to consider the state of roads in 1914, muddy and sandy and with hidden stumps and rocks. Needless to say, she received a hero’s welcome. It took her eight days.

From Kansas she headed for Oklahoma City then headed north, through Missouri, to Chicago. Further to the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Factory in Milwaukee where she picnicked with the female workers of the motorcycle factory.  

The first Harley-Davidson factory, a tiny wooden shed in the Davidson family backyard in Milwaukee. 1903.
The first Harley-Davidson factory, a tiny wooden shed in the Davidson family backyard in Milwaukee. 1903.

Further south she departed, to Indiana. Here the authorities stopped her twice along the road because of hoof and mouth disease cases in the area. Della had to promise that her dog wouldn’t leave the sidecar. Then on to Goshen, Indiana she went. Here Della and Trouble took part in a city parade before heading to the East Coast to New York. It was winter, 12 December and -10F (-23C!).  While Della Crewe had to wear all the clothes she traveled with in order to keep warm, her dog Trouble was cozy in a specially knitted sweater, curled on the bottom of the side car, on his pillow.

According to Google Maps, this trip would take 43 h without traffic (2,734 miles) today, driving via US-287 N and US-283 N. We are advised that this route has tolls and that the destination is in a different time zone.

A Harley-Davidson, Brave Della Crewe and Trouble the Dog route through US - leg 1
A Harley-Davidson, Brave Della Crewe and Trouble the Dog route through US – leg 1.

It took Della Crewe from spring till autumn 1914 (and many stop overs along the way) to travel from Kansas to New York.

“I had a glorious trip. I am in perfect health and my desire is stronger than ever to keep going.”

She didn’t stop here. Since World War 1 already started in Europe, she couldn’t take her Harley-Davidson and her beloved dog Trouble across the Atlantic so she headed south, booking passage to Florida. Then she booked passage further to Havana, Cuba where she toured the island, still on her Harley-Davidson. She sailed further south, over the Caribbean Sea to Panama where she visited the newly open Panama Canal, “America’s master work.”  Further she visited the island of Jamaica, still part of the British Empire back then. Here she motored to the top of the highest peak. From Jamaica she then hopped to the island of Puerto Rico.

She then sailed back home to Florida, then motored to Tampa, then to Atlanta, Carolinas, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia before reaching New York City again.

A Harley-Davidson, Brave Della Crewe and Trouble the Dog route through US - leg 2
A Harley-Davidson, Brave Della Crewe and Trouble the Dog route through US – leg 2

Here she didn’t stop for long, motoring across the US to Los Angeles – where she settled in 1916 for a while longer, working as a manicurist and a shop clerk.

A modern day Della Crewe
A modern day Della Crewe
Cool bikers in a side car.
Cool bikers in a side car.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Della Crewe’s biking adventures and about her beloved dog Trouble, especially since I, too, know a few stories abut a different dog, a Great Dane, that was enrolled in the Royal Navy and even flew planes during World War Two: Joyful Trouble.

Get the book of Joyful Trouble only on Amazon.
I, too, know a few stories abut a different dog, a Great Dane, that was enrolled in the Royal Navy and even flew planes during World War Two: Joyful Trouble.

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