A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany
A BIOGRAPHY OF
E. H. RICHARDSON
The Founder of The First British Dog Training School & A Leading Authority On War Dogs In The 20th Century!
Featuring The History of The United States and Great Britain!
In the World of Military Working Dogs, it's simply amazing how much is owed to just one man... Edwin Hautenville Richardson!
Richardson, born at the turn of the last century in England, was a noted dog fancier, who during his early studies, rediscovered the early use of dogs by the generals of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
It was also at this time, that he learnt that dogs were being trained for military purposes in afew of the continental armies, which arroused in him an curiosity, that would last a lifetime.
Armed with this information, Edwin H. Richardson, became a man of vision and determination, who understood the need for England to create its own army of dogs.
How this came about, is the basis of his first book, "My Forty Years With Dogs," published in 1918, shortly after The Great War.
Within its pages, Richardson recorded his training methods used for both police, and what we now know as, military working dogs. He also wrote about his first hand experiences, with the various european armies and their use of dogs.
Actually, practically everything we know about the early twentry century history of war dogs to due singularly to E. Richardson's articles and dispatches at the time.
The Spanish against the Riffs in Morocco; the Bulgarians during the Balkan Wars; the English and the Abor Expedition; the Italians against the Turks, in Tripoli; even our own Marines during the banana wars and Spanish-American War of 1898.
It was his unerring determination and dedication, that founded the first British War Dog School at the beginning of The Great War; and again years later, at the start of the Second World War.
And it was EH Richardson's books, that were used as training manuals by the United States' Quartermaster Corps, in 1942, when this country started its first official K-9 Army.
Come now...on a journey through time...through history and the life of one man, who we owe so much to.
Thomas F. Newton
An Introduction To Edwin Hautenville Richardson: Forty Years With Dogs!
Edwin H. Richardson, was born in England during the reign of Regina Victoria, into a distinguish family of the landed gentry, the youngest of three boys. His father was what we now call, a gentleman farmer.
Edwin lost his mother at a early age, as she contracted the dreadful disease of smallpox, while doing social service in the dockland slums of London, "to the sick and ignorant." Of his brothers, one entered the Church, an the other became a Commander in the Royal Navy.
The Richardson's, were all dog fanciers, so Edwin, along with his two brothers, grew up with a large number of pets. As he put it, "As a family, we have all of us a ' way with dogs, and all animals. What this exactly means, I expect most people will agree with me is extremely difficult to define, but the fact remains, that there seems to be in people with this sense, a certain sympathetic confidence to which the animal responds with a like attitude. This comradeship is very delightful, and brings much sweetness and happiness in life. One feels really sorry for those people who do not possess it, as certainly they deny themselves an immense amount of pleasure and innocent fun."
"I think most of us have memories of the dog friends of our youth - those intensely individual characters who loved us very devotedly, but, as their masters, did not respect us in the least, who regarded themselves as in every way equal to us in the family life, and who alternately adored us and kept us in our place, who participated in all our pleasures and sorrows, and occasionally gave us what they considered necessary, fleshly admonitions."
The Early Years!
As a young boy, he first attended school at Cheltenham, where his favourite study was natural history. It was there that he first heard of dogs being trained for military purposes in the Continental armies, at which time, he noted, "aroused in me great interest."
As his father was anxious for him to acquire languages, he was sent off to Hanover and Dresden to learn German, after leaving Cheltenham and after that to Switzerland for French tuition. It was while in Europe, that he started studying canine history, and the use of dogs in warfare, by the ancient Greeks and later the French, during Napoleon's time.
Richardson: "At that period the Germans were not as sure of themselves as they became later. That they were being tuned up under the stringent educational military propagandia it was to see, but they then were of an admiring frame of mind towards Britishers, and were without that over weening conceit, which later on led them so woefully astray.
Even my boyish mind understood, however, that their military organization was not one to hold in light esteem, and that the energy and system which, with true German thoroughness, they introduced into every detail, might be likely to cause us alot of trouble some day."
After Europe, he attended Sandhurst, and passed into the Sherwood Foresters; after retiring from the Regular Army, he joined the West York Militia, then commanded by Sir George Jackson Hay.
In 1894, Edwin married Blanche Bannon, the pretty, youngest daughter of Thomas Riley Bannon; "a lady who adored all helpless things, dogs, babies and flowers." They acquiring a land estate for farming on the east coast of Scotland, located at Carnoustie. It was there that they started to raise a family, having two boys, and numerous dogs. It was also there at Camoustie, that they were able to persue their mutual interest in dog training.
Mercy Dogs, Farm Collies On The Front
The Beginning...The Collies!
It was early in the new century, that Richardson began to train dogs for military purposes in a tentative way. In an early (1902) article, he mentioned how he came to take up the work. "It was in 1895, while shooting on a friend's moor in Scotland he took notice of a ' foreigner' buying a sheepdog from a shepherd and learned that the man was an German agent, sent over by the German government to purchase large quantities of collie dogs for the German Army . He was told that these dogs were found to be excellent for the work required, and that they had nothing in Germany, which could compare with them. He was going everywhere collecting dogs.
Someday, Richardson told himself, "we may find our own dogs of service for our country, our soldiers." It was from that day forward, that he and his wife started working harder training war dogs, not just for their own amusement, but as an experiment.
"I remember the old shepherd gave me some valuable hints on training, and how marvellous is the connection between these Scotch sheep dogs and their masters. I bought a great shaggy animal from him that had reasoning powers, that were practically human."
"The collies we found were useful in any teaching, which entailed a seeking out and return to a given spot. This would be due to the generations of sheep dog ancestry when the animal's intelligence is always trained outwards, tending after the sheep but always returning to the shepherd."
Dogs In Europe
In his own words, "I always kept myself in touch with all the work being done with dogs for the army and police on the Continent. Being able to speak and read and write French and German easily, I left no stone unturned to keep myself in touch with the commandants fo the various schools in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium. Amongst others I studied the experients of Lieut. Dupin of the 32nd French Infantry, who began testing dogs for military purposes, at much the same time as I did in Britain. Unfortunately this officer died before the Great War."
"I thought it might be interesting to see what the Germans were doing with these (collie) dogs, so hearing of a training school in Lechernich where they were being collected, I went over there and stayed for some time. I found a fine collection of collies, which were training in for finding wounded. They wore Red Cross jackets, and were very well broken (trained). One of these I purchased and brought back with me."
A Collection Of The Richardson's Farm Collies!
He and his wife would play various games with their collie dogs; teaching them hide and seek (to find them or their childen), to run with messages, and to lie down and guard objects, etc. Even though they had no official backing, they both found this training interesting and had wonderful results with both messenger dogs and ambulance dogs.
During the summer months, the officiers at the nearby army camps at Barrie and Buddon, helped unofficially, by allowing Richardson to bring his dogs to experiment with their men, while they were training. The soldiers enjoyed the exercises, as the ambulance dogs carried a small flask of spirits in their saddlebags, which according to Edwin needed to be refilled quite often!
"We conducted a good many experiments at night, as well as during the day; and I was able to judge where there were weak spots in my training and to make alterations."
Some of the officers in command of the camps at different times, were sufficently impressed with the results to send in reports to the War Office on their own initiative requesting that an enquiry should be held as to the wisdom of official recognition of war dogs. Nothing came of these requests, however, although he always responded to invitiations to go to various manoeuvring grounds, at his own expense.
Farm Collies During Army Training In Scotland
Richardson about this time, became interested in the use of bloodhounds for scenting (tracking); and though that they would be useful in both the army and in police work. As his reputation grew, so did the many requests for his assistance in finding lost persons.
"We first hear of them (bloodhounds) in any connected way during the Middle Ages, but they had existed in Britain long before that time. They are one of our oldest breeds and there is no doubt, that they came to this country, from France, with William the Conqueror."
Farm Collies Were A Popular Breed
Training War Dogs
"It became known pretty widely after a time, that I was training war dogs and I'll insert here a clipping from one of the dailies, which is interesting, as showing that the same idea has been cropping up every now and then through the centuries."
A Newspaper Account Of War Dogs:
"When the modern use of war dogs as now practiced in chief by Major Richardson, was first taken up is not quite clear; but some credit for perception of the possibilities of their employ- ment may perhaps be assigned to Capt. John Grant, who was favourite aide-de-camp, or galloper to Frederick the Great in the Seven Years' War. He brought to London successively the news of the battle of Prague and Rossbach, and died as major general and Governor of Neisse, in Silesia.
Frederick's French reader, DeCatt, recorded in his diary the following table talk reference of the King to Captain Grant and his passion for dogs, presumably of the collie or Speyside kind;
"I have another Englishman here or rather a Scot, like Michell (Aberdeenshire, Sir Andrew, English Ambassador), like him, too, so very blunt and honest, but withal a brave officer. His name is Grant. He is worth knowing, and you might ask Sir Andrew for an introduction to him. But take my advice, and beware of abusing his dogs, of which he always leads about several with him, and above all, have a care of treading on their toes, for on these two points I can assure you, he is not to be trifled with. Were I, for example, even I, who am now talking to you, to disparage or cane his dogs, he would give me a furious blowing up for it. You can therefore imagine, what would happen if you or anyone else were to do his canine companions the least harm. His dogs are his weakness, his mania, though in other respects he is a very charming and gallant fellow.
"This Captain Grant figures in an historical romance of the Seven Years' War, "A Fallen Star, or the Scots of Frederick," and in recommending the use of one of his dogs for courier service in connection with an effort to discover certain secrets of the Saxon camp, says: ' And all that the dog's abductor, as I may call him, sire, has to do in the present case is to get into the Saxon camp with it, find out somehow the number of days for which their provisions will still hold out, scratch this number nothing more, inside the collar of the dog here, and then fling it loose, so that if he himself cannot again manage to slink through the lines, the collie will certainly do so stealthily as a fox and be back to me in no time. ' ' Bravo, Grant,' exclaimed the King; ' the idea, I repeat is a most admirable one, and shall at once be carried out. I wonder why we never thought of this before.' The ancients, sire,' said Grant, ' as may be read in Strabo, were alive to the use of dogs in war.' As combatants, yes, but not as couriers, eh? ' ' Perhaps not, sire, but in that case your Majesty, by now using my collie in the way proposed, will reap the honour of having introduced still another novelty in the mechanism of modern war.' ' Nay, my dear Major, ' protested the King, ' the honour will be all yours for suggesting the thing, but I am all impatience to have it tried. Your countryman Keith (Field Marshal) has devised a war game (Kriegspiel) and now you cap his invention with the discovery of a war dog.' "
Photo Of The Two Airedales Sent To Rusia!
In 1905, the Russo-Japanese War broke out, and Richardson received a wire, from the Russian Embassy in London, asking if he could supply a certain number of ambulance dogs for the Russian troops. He sent several Airedales, that performed so well, that the Dowager Empress Marie, sent him the Red Cross medal and the Czar, a gold and diamond repeater watch and chain for his services.
About this time, he also received an invitation from his old friend, Major General Tucker, who was commanding the forces in Scotland, to take part with his ambulance dogs in an immense review of troops before King Edward at Edinburgh. He took four collies in their Red Cross jackets and they "excited great interest."
Tucker was so impressed, that he sent the following report to the War Office, after seeing the dogs goes throught their paces!
Report: "Forwarded and strongly recommended. Seeing that every foreign government has already recognized the use of dogs, either for ambulance purposes or sentry work, or both, I am of opinion that advantage should be taken without delay of Major E. H. Richardson's knowledge and experience in the matter of breeding and training them, and some military training centre selected for the purpose. it seems likely that Salisbury Plain might offer greater facilities in this respect than Aldershot; but on this point, as on other matters of details, I would suggest that Major Richardson be consulted."
Many others were offering their support as well; from Sir Evelyn Wood, the Duke of Abercorn, and Lord Breadalbane, all recognized the value of war dogs and encouraged Richardson to continue on with his work.
Major Richardson's War Dogs On Display!
In 1907, Richardson was staying at Aldershop, where he had received permission from the commanding officer to train his dogs in the camp. One day, he was asked to go to London to the Turkish Embassy. It seemed, that the Sultan Abdul Hamid was concerned, that unauthorized persons were entering the palace grounds at Yildiz Kiosy, with perhaps designs on the ladies of his harem (which at that time numbered about 700); and he wanted Richardson to take some of his (sentry) dogs and instruct some of his officers and servants in their use.
"I selected three dogs, a collie called Laddie, a beautiful sable and a most sagacious creature; Warrior, a black and tan bloodhound, and another tricolor collie. We all travelled by the Orient Express, arriving in Constantinope about a week later.
The Sultan had twenty Albanians who were to assist me in working the dogs and to receive instructions in managing them. The dogs were trained to scent out hidden persons and to give warning when they were found.
The collies used their wits a good deal when the scent failed, to help themselves in their hunt for the quarry; and as to the bloodhound, this was one of the most remarkable I have ever had, and if there was the slightest trace of a trail he was able to track."
Morocco, Bulgaria, Tripoli And Russia
After Richardson's return from Turkey, the family moved to England, along with their dogs, settling in Harrow. During this time, Edwin was spenting summers with the Dutch Guard Regiment at The Hague, in Holland, who had military dogs, but were interested in his bloodhounds, for which Richardson had acquired quite a reputation for.
It was for his bloodhounds, that in 1908, he received an telegram from the Empress Eugenie, of Bulgaria, who wished to present a tracking dog for ambulance purposes to the Spanish Army, which was engaged in war against the Riffs in Morocco. The Queen of Spain was the Empress Eugenie's god-daughter.
Later on, in 1910, the Balkan War broke out and Richardson traveled to Cattaro, the port on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, then to Cettinje, the capital. The Bulgarians were using their local sheep dogs as sentries and Richardson was interested.
During 1911, in India, the Abor expedition was attacked by tribesmen, and one Englishman was killed. Again Richardson was called to bring his sentry dogs for use by the Gurkha's, who were about to teach the tribes about "white man's law."
It's interesting to note, that Richardson was generally part of most of what we now consider major events, in the use of war dogs, during the early part of the 20th century. Again, in 1911, he was with the Italians, as they fought the Turks in Tripoli; the italians were using many animals, both ambulance and sentry dogs quite successfully.
Once home again, Richardson continued his war dog training, even placing some (unoffically but by request) with the Gordon Highlanders, the Norfolk Regiment, and the King's Durham Light Infantry; all of these dogs were well received.
1914, Russia again! Richardson was invited to St. Petersburg, to judge the military and police dogs trails held at Semenoff Racecourse. There were close to 300 Russian entries, mostly Airedales, sheep dogs, and doberman pinchers.
Many of the military dogs, performed under fire, as pack dogs, ambulance dogs (they were trained to bring back the caps of the wounded to their keepers), and sentries, etc.
Returing home, that June, Richardson was summons by the Queen to bring some of his war dogs to Marlborough House; it seems the clouds of war were gathering, and everyone includ- ing Queen Mary, was concerned.
Airedales Were Later A Favorite Of Both The Police And Army!
"Police dogs may be divided into two types," according to E. H. Richardson, "those which are used with the town's patrol constable, and those who in addition to their ordinary guard qualities have the ability to track."
In England, just before the Great War, the police dog of choice was the English Bloodhound, which as previous noted, first came to England with William the Conqueror; the Bloodhound not being introduced to the United States until 1888. What American's called blood hounds during the War Between The States, was probably a cross between a Cuban mastiff and a Great Dane.
"When Dick Turpin (famous English folk hero) was hiding in the Yorkshire dales, the King's huntsmen took down two hounds to track him, so necessary was it deemed to secure this daring highwayman. The were hard on his scent at one time and Dick only escaped by climbing a tree."
Airedales and collies were also used for police work as well, and it was quite possible to train them for tracking; as these breeds are very intelligent and would assist the searchers by their wits, as well as by their noses.
Richardson mentions, that many towns and cities had come to him for dogs for their police, before the war and afterwards. Glasgow was one of the first; also Liverpool, where they proved to be a huge success. A Liverpool newspaper, at the time, stated: "Twenty dogs are maintained and are under excellent control; no person has ever complained of having been molested or frightened by the animals. While speaking of the work of the dogs in the Mersey seaport, the Liverpool Chief Constable mentioned that one of the Airedales and a constable were able to effect the arrest of six men, who had been attempting to commit a crime."
For patrolling the quiet outskirts of great cities, police dogs are excellent. The fact that they are there exerts a deterrent effect on crime of the theft class, as the detective powers of the constable are greatly enlarged by his having a good hearing and scenting dog with him. He has also an increased feeling of security as anyone will understand, who is accustomed to be out late at night along dark roads. The companionship of a good sharp dog, which has been specially trained to be on the alert is, without doubt, the greatest comfort and protection.
A Shepherd And Dobe!
A Dog's Mind And Soul
Edwin H. Richardson was apparently a very studious and religious man, as noted by several chapters in his biography about the soul and the mind of a dog, in relation to parts of the Bible; how a dogs knows certain things, like when someone, it loves is dying, either close by or distant. As well, as how much apparent some breeds were more intelligent, than others, etc.
Remember now, the period, we're in, is just before the Great War, at the end of what is about to become...the Victorian Age!
Men were full of ideals and strong convictions... especially in England. There were noble ideas of morale; of what was right and what was wrong; for God and Country; for The King; the English even had a right way of killing their enemies on the field of battle.
There were rules to follow!
But, as, we're more concern at the moment, with the history of dogs and not what motivates them or the training, I have made the decision to go on...but noting the fact, that Edwin was a man of his times; and spent hours in deep thought, reflection and amazement about the 'unconditional love, that a dog will show to his master.' And certainly, such a noble animal, as that, must have a soul as well.
What if anything is interesting about the section, is that it was the first time, that someone in Britain, had seriously taken pen to paper, and wrote about the various breeds and the training methods!
Before Richardson's books and articles; there were a number of magazine articles, that were published in Europe before the turn of the century, by several dog experts, in Prague, Paris, Moscow and Berlin. This was new territory being 'discovered again,' by Richardson ...since the ancients recorded their own history!
Richardson, "I feel this book would not be complete were I not to mention that period of my life for which all the previous years seemed to have been a time of preparation.
When the War first commenced those in authority were at first wrestling with gigantic problems, the moving of vast bodies of troops, the preparation of equipment, food, etc, etc. The lessor aspects of war - the trimmings, so to speak, could not receive any attention." So, Richardson offered his services to the Red Cross and suggested that he take some ambulance dogs in August 1914, out to the rapidly advancing troops.
Pvt. Modder, Collie War Hero!
He did go to Belgium and was in Brussels, when the Germans entered the city; but the Belgians were retreating and the British troops had yet to make a connection...so dogs were of no value to a retreating army.
Edwin returned to England, and again offered his dogs and service to the War Office, but they were not wanted just then.
He quietly continued his war dogs training, hoping things would change; and soon after, they did, requests came from the Front for dogs to aids the sentries, and for guarding. Many officers had repeatedly asked for these to be officially supplied but with no results, they wrote him directly.
After this, messenger dogs were demanded, and both he and his wife working day and night, to trained and shipped them to France as quickly as possible!
After a short period, Richardson went back to France, this time without any dogs, but to compare notes with his friends in the French Army, who had also been working with war dogs before the conflict.
He also made a second trip in 1915 to Gerardmere, the site of the French War Dog School, commanded by (Sgt.) Megnin, and while there they caught a german spy, who each night went out with a lantern. He was followed to a clearing, where he was found signalling with the lamp.
French K-9 Corp Waiting To Go Over The Top!
Richardson also visited the headquarters of the 12th French Chasseurs Alpins, a corp of expert mountain troops who were using dogs for sentries; they had a reputation of always going at the double and were nicknamed the "Blue Devils," by the germans. When he was there, the dogs had found a secret outpost, that was giving the regiment alot of trouble. A French battery did their work and all was well once again!
Finally, A British War Dog School
After a visit to the training ground at Chantilly, he returned home to work harder; soon afterwards, the War Office finally contacted him and asked if he would form an official training school for war dogs. Within a week, the Richardsons had closed down their house, stored their furniture and lefted for Shoeburyness along with their dogs, which at the time were mostly Airedales. These he turned over to the government, and they became the first official British war dogs to go to France.
Very soon, large numbers of dogs were collected from all parts in preparation for training. They came from private donors, in response to a War Office appeal, and from the Dogs' Homes; very soon they had well over 500 dogs in camp.
At the end of the first month, Edwin sent out thirty trained dogs. They were of mixed breeds, mostly collies, some Airedales and retrievers...and mixed. Very soon, the school started to run out of room for all the dogs and space needed for training all the handlers and their canines.
The War Office suggested a change and the entire camp was to be moved to Matley Ridge at Lyndhurst, in the New Forest, Hampshire.
July 1918, Richardson was ordered to make an inspection of the facilities and dogs in France. He was to report to GHQ at Montreuil, where he was joined by Major Waley, who was the officer who co-operated with Edwin in France. The inspection found very few problems, most of the dogs were working wonderfully.
British Pilot With His Two Mascots!
My Offical Report
I give the official record of this first day's inspection:
"Visited the commanding officer of D.D. Signals, Second Army. Discussed with him the full organization of the Messenger Dog Service. He showed us the reports, which had just been received on the use of messenger dogs during the last offensive, especially a letter from the Brigadier of the 92nd Brigade, giving all details of the use made of the Messenger Dog Service.
With Officer In Command of Messenger Dog Service proceeded to II Corps. Met there A.D. Signals and Office in command of Messenger Dog Service, II Corps.
Made a complete round of all dogs at No. 1 Section Kennel. Received most favourable report from II Corps as to the general running of the Messenger Dog Service, II Corps Area.
Proceeded to No. 2 Section Kennel. Made complete round of all dogs now in this section Kennel. It was in this kennel, that the dogs were used so successfully by the 32nd Division. A few dogs required to be send back to the Central Kennel for further training, but on the whole all dogs in Nos. 1 and 2 Section Kennels would appear to be working in a most satisfactory manner."
Have received a few reports, which show the pride and interest taken by the men (keepers / handlers) in the work of their charges (dogs):
Keeper MacLeod states: "When the 29th Division came in, and relieved the 31st, there was a small advance made then; the dogs did great work, that was in Nieppe Forest Sector.
The G.O.C., 88th Brigade, wrote out, and had a note typed of which I got a copy, giving great praise to dogs 83, 94, and 65. The first two were Jock and Bruno, and the other Champion.
Senting A Message Via K-9 Farm Collie.
That was the first official praise we had from anyone. Then came another small advance, which proved the mettle of three more dogs, Whitefoot, Paddy, and Mop. The first two dogs were badly gassed, but carried on. They were three weeks in hospital after they came out of the line, but during the gas bombardment, they never failed to give the greatest satisfaction. Once again, there was a slight advance made, in which two dogs, Bruce and Blue Boy, were to the fore. Bruce came four different times from the front lines to Brigade Headquarters, with messages, which were of great importance.
Keeper Reid says: "The two dogs I took out are doing well, I should say exceptionally well. I have not the least hesitation in saying there is not a brace of better dogs in this or any other country as messenger dogs. Boxer, the Airedale, is running like an engine. The lurcher bitch, Flash beats him on his week's running by twenty minutes, which is not a lot considering the breeds. The General of the -------- Division said, that the Airedale was the best dog he had seen."
Keeper Dixon later reports on Boxer: "A staunch, reliable dog, ran steadily, and never let me down. Best time, three miles in ten minutes. On one occasion, he went over the top with the Kents. Released at 5 a.m., with important message. He jumped at me at 5:25 a.m. A tip-top performance, about four miles. A great dog!"
Kennel Section 1
There were about thirty six dogs at this section of various breeds. They were in excellent condition, and I was glad to hear from their officers in charge and from the keepers that they were doing well.
K-9 Keeper And His Airedale Messager
The keepers, whom I had personally trained in the school at Shoeburyness were glad to see me and my visit encouraged them in their difficult task. Many of them had, when the first drafts went out, great obstruction to contend with in the management of their charges. The important nature, which later on was recognized of the work the dogs were able to do, was not immediately realized.
Commanding officers of those battalions to whom they were first sent very often made light of the dogs, or else ignored them, or worse still rather cynically set them to tasks under impossible conditions. I feel deeply grateful to those officers, who had sufficient perspicacity to grant the man and dogs a fair trail wherever they were and to make allowances for difficulties in working, which later were over come.
Definite orders from headquarters were after a time formulated, governing the reception and disposal of these valuable animals and the men, who were responsible for them, so that respect was soon inculcated and was retained, when it was found what could be accomplished by their aid.
Major Waley was the officer responsible for putting these organizing disposals into practice in France. A central station was formed at Etaples for the reception of the dogs and their keepers on arrival from England; and for a resting place from their periods of duty at the Front. From here they were issued in batches of usually thirty-six dogs, with one keeper to every three dogs, and they were ordered to those parts of the line where an attack was impending. Major Waley maintained the organization of the service in a very excellent manner.
British Keeper And K-9 Farm Collie
But, They're Not Pets!
One of the great difficulties in the Messenger Dog Service is to enforce the most important rule, that when the dogs are taken forward from their keepers by the troops to whom they are attached, they must on no account be petted or fed when they are at the Front. All these animals being especially picked for their intelligence it was not to be wondered at that the dog loving British officers and men rather "spread themselves" in kind attention to the visitors. This, of course, was extremely bad from the training point of view, as it detached the dog's mind from its keeper and its dinner at the base.
It was therefore most important, that no dogs should be kept more than twelve hours in the line, but that it should be released before that time had elapsed. This regulation is to ensure that it should not become too hungry. Twelve hours is, of course, quite a reasonable time for a dog to go without food, as they were all well fed before going up to the line.
Of course, as a matter of fact, they were often released long before that time, but it was found necessary to emphasize this and to prevent them being fed at the Front. It was only when the importance of the work which the dogs were able to do began to be realized and it was lifted out of the rut of a rather amused and condescending tolerance, that general officers, officers and men combined to observe in every way, in their own interest, the rules which governed these canine soldiers in their arduous work.
The Inspection Continued...
The next day we went further down the line to a sector, where the dogs were running with the 9th and 32nd Divisions, operating between Bailleul and Merville. Some of them were going up the line with some of the Seaforths.
The officers of the battalion were very satisfied with the dogs and spoke highly of them, and when I arrived several of my old pupils were complacently awaiting to be release with important dispatches and were seated beside some weary officers in torn kilts in a broken down dugout. The Germans were just across the way and with the use of a glass, I could see right into their position.
Next day, we went to battalions of the Light Durham and the Yorkshire Light Infantry, which were holding a section of the line near Aire in detached posts. I was greatly welcomed and received reports on the dogs.
Our next visit of inspection led us a considerable distance down the line to an Australian division. When we arrived they were engaged in retaking a position at Corbie and had before successfully circled the Germans from Villers Bretonneux, an action of great importance, as this place was the key to amiens, and the enemy's plan of cutting the British and French armies in two by the capture of this last named town was thus foiled. The dogs did fine work here, and I received a number of highly satisfactory reports. Very often all communication had failed entirely in the heavy shelling and gas attacks and the way was kept open by these swift running dogs.
I remember being greatly pleased at hearing that General Gouraud had asked to see us, having a great veneration for this fine soldier, who proved to be one of France's greatest generals. We were tired and dirty after a 250 mile journey, but the opportunity of a conversation with a man like this was not one to be lost. His opinion on messenger dogs was emphatic, and a remark being made by us as to the obstacles of the training, he replied, "What matter it! Commuication in the field is so difficult along ordinary lines in times of war, that even if only one dog out of four gets through, I am satisfied."
Army Headquarters Kennels
There were nearly 800 dogs in our camp, and the officers in charge were well chosen, being, many of them, Masters of Hounds and gentlemen, who understood the training and management of dogs in civilian life. One of them, told me that at his Chateau, which lay in the route of a famous German General's Army on its march to Paris, he kept some very fine pointers, which he was afraid might fall into the hands of the enemy.
Much as I should have liked to remain longer in France, I was unable to do so, as everywhere I found a need for more messenger dogs. So that my presence at the Training School in England was imperative.
On my return, I found the camp at Shoeburyness busy packing up for our new ground in Hampshire.
It was now thought advisable to stir up the public to the fact that dogs were being trained to assist soldiers and that the canine supply was decreasing in numbers.
Stannard Russell, of the Weekly Dispatch, visited the school and wrote: "Reinforcements are needed for the gallant British Army of Dogs, which are doing wonderful work as messengers in the great battle now raging in Flanders.
They are saving the lives of our soldiers and doing their bit to keep that unbroken line intact by getting safely through ground swept with the enemy shell fire to Headquarters with urgent messages, sometimes when there is no chance of our brave runners surviving the journey.
I saw Britain's new army of dogs in training at a certain spot in England yesterday. Their commander was Major Richardson, whose Airedales and bloodhounds in happier days, were known all over the world. He has been placed in charge of the training of these animals, and by patience, skill and kindness, has been obtaining remarkable results.
A company of dogs who have just completed their training and are ready for the next call from the front, were drawn up with their keepers for inspection. There were all the sounds of war. Shells from batteries at practice were screaming overhead, and army motor lorries passed to and fro. The dogs are trained to the constant sound of the guns and very soon learn to take no heed of them.
There were long lines of kennels with their occupants perched on the top watching the inspection with great interest, and barking their loudest. It was a sight that would have made Mr. George Moore sit down and write another powerful diatribe straight away. Many breeds were represented. Sheep dogs, lurchers, collies, retrievers, drovers' dogs, but no terriers smaller than Airedales."
" 'The breed does not matter so much,' said the major, 'it is brains that we want. Sheep dogs, any cross of sheep dogs or lurchers are perhaps the best of all, but we want all kinds of open air dogs. It does not take long to find the brainy ones, but most of the recruits pass the test.' The training is in full swing.
"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 afew 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 never punished. They are caught by the keepers and gently led back for another try.
Then the next test for the dogs was passing through a thick cloud of smoke. They were released only a few yards away from a burning heap of straw, and all, without a pause, dashed straight through the smoke and reached their destination with much barking and tail wagging.
And so most of the efforts of the battlefield were produced. The most trying test of all was running toward a number of infantry lying on the ground, who fired off blank cartridges at point blank range.
When the signal was given the whole crowd of dogs charged straight into the fire and in a flash were through the ranks of the 'enemy.' There was a great outburst of applause from all the dogs, that were looking on enviously at the heroic spectacle, and Masher, the Major's dog, better known as the Field Marshal, came forward with a few words of approval. Although only a 'Grade 3' dog, and on home service, Masher has acquired a position of peculiar privilege, and in spite of his diminutiveness, he is treated with awe by all the recruits who pass through this camp.
The dogs are trained to ignore the fire of guns of all calibers, and they are accustomed to the explosion of hand grenades near them. Major Richardson explains that there are many reasons why these animals are indispensable at the front in the present conditions of warfare. 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 a very heavy bombardment by the enemy the casualties among the runners, especially when they have to cross much open country exposed to snipers, machine gun fire, or a heavy barrage, are heavy, and sometimes none succeed in getting through. A runner has sometimes taken two or three hours to do a journey from the trenches, which a dog has done in half an hour or less.
Messenger Dogs With Two Handlers
All the heroes of the Dog Messenger Service at the front are anonymous. Officially they are known only by the numbers on the collars, but the names of some of them have inevitably become famous among the troops.
In addition to the demand for messenger dogs, animals are also wanted as watchdogs. They play an important part on some parts of the front, and more especially the more distant theatres of the war. They should be mastiffs, bull mastiffs, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, or any large, savage cross bred. Owners can render a service to the country by sending their dogs."
Thus ended Mr. Russsell's story!
Our New Forest Camp
In the New Forest, our camp was on a high point from which we had a fine view of the surrounding country. This was good, as it was possible to trace the dogs on their journeys in various directions. There was a famous bombing school below us in the valley. This was under the command of Major Pothecary, an officer who is remembered with respect and affection by all who came in contact with him. With his kind interest in my own work, I was able to make use very often of part of his ground in which there were accurately made trenches and dugouts, runined buldings, etc., made for practice experiments. These were most useful to me and put a finiishing touch to the training work.
I have omitted to mention that apart from the messenger dogs, the command for sentry and guard dogs has been received some good time before we left Shoeburyness. This involved of course a greatly increased output of work, as we never seemed to be able to supply them quickly enough. I am afraid, however, this diffiulty applied also to the dispatch dogs. In the very instance these were used by gunners to keep up a communication between.
After that, the infantry made full use of them, and the demand became so insistent and extensive, that it was found actually impossible to supply them so that every regiment had sufficient for itself, and as I have already stated, it was there fore found necessary to sent the battalions of dogs to the most active sections of the Front.
Bunker Hospital's Mascot On The Front
In the war, no one at the War Office, in spite of my often repeated warnings, gave a thought to the preservation of dog power throughout the land. The results was that, in the upheaval which followed, resultant upon the food shortage, many thousands of dogs were destroyed, which would have been of great value to the army both at home and abroad.
In the summer of 1918, I was beginning to feel the shortage of dogs. All the stray dogs' homes were under orders to supply all suitable specimens that came to them and private owners were, by official announcements in the Press every now and then, made aware of the need for dogs at the War Dog School for training purposes. But that summer the quality of recruit was beginning to go down very much. Very few strong fine animals were coming in, and this should not have been so had adequate measures been taken to safeguard the supply.
One fateful day, when sitting at lunch, a message was brought by my orderly, that I was needed instantly, and on going out I found the camp padre with a most portentous expression on his face and the truly almost unbelievable word on his lips... "Peace!"
I wonder if anyone received the sound of this word at that time with exactly the same feeling as his neighbour? I am glad to say, that in our camp at Lyndhurst we had a fine spirit, and after a certain amount of natural excitement and horseplay, all ranks met together for a solemn service at the military chapel, a gathering of concentrated emotion the like of which had been rarely, if ever, equalled.
Our camp at Matley Ridge was no longer available. The huts were up for sale, but it was felt desirable to retain the dogs at a centre. Another big move therefore was made, this time we moved to Bulford, the large permanent camp on Salisbury Plain.
A good deal of guarding was required in this camp and all dogs, whether messenger or watch dogs, were used for this sort of duty. There were vast stores of war material to guard; also there was a prisoner of war camp there, as well.
November 11th...the Armistice!
It is the old story. In this country nothing is done in preparation for war until the emergency actually arises and then it is a question of mass production with all its difficultries, its terrible make shifts and agonizing delays. However, perhaps in the end, a nation like ours, which obviously never desires war, always will score in the end. It was proved in this war and will be still more so in the future that no country will be able to flout the public opinion of the civilized world. Any nation, that would dare to do so will certainly be destroyed.
The time was now drawing to a close and our work at the War Dog School was ended. It only remained to dispose of those dogs, which had been still in training at the time of the Armistice and which were not required for any guarding purposes. All the camps and vulnerable points were gradually dispersing so that guardian dogs were no longer needed and to find good homes for these was not difficult.
We have found a pleasant home in Surrey, where I will continue my work...
I pause awhile and look back down the vista of years. There is much light and some shadow, but always gratitude for the happiness and interest accorded me by the dog soul, the cult of which never betrays, but repays with affectionate fidelity and charming entertainment.
Someone has been with me always, a loving inspiration in all I have done. Together we watch the sun rise on the world and know that with the creatures, as with mankind, all will be well.
Edwin Hautenville Richardson
SiteBuilder's Note: The British War Dog School reopened during World War II, again at the suggestion of E. H. Richardson, at Potter's Bar, near London; a second school was located in Gloucetershire; after WW II, the War Dog School was renamed Defence Animal Centre, and moved to Welby Lane Camp, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, where it has remained up to the present.
OUR K-9 HISTORY TOUR CONTINUES TO WW II AND ON THE HOMEFRONT!
TOM NEWTON SITE BUILDER