The British Army's
Royal Army Veterinary Corps
In 1945, the mistake of disbanding the War Dog program made at the close of the Kaiser's War was not repeated, but the days were numbered for the Army's Dog Training School at Potters Bar.
The war was over, and England was attempting to return to the normacy of peacetime, and the Potters Bar Greyhound Racing Association wasn't any exception, they wanted to resume their greyhound racing season.
Actually, early in 1945, the RAVC, who was now charged with the overall management of all Army animal resources, needed two homes quickly, one for the Dog Training School, and one other for their horses.
The RAVC (Horse) Depot, which had relocated during the war, from Woolwich to Doncaster Racecourse as a wartime measure, needed a new home as well ...as their Jockey Club also wanted to resume (horse) racing.
April 1945, a suitable site was found in Belgium, at the Zellick Racecourse. The Dog Training School joined the 21st Army Group, commanded by Lt. Col. R.W. Stalker ADVRS, who lost no time in making the school a part of the RAVC.
In November 1945, Major D.G. Young was appointed the first RAVC commanding officer of the Dog School; and the school, with 150 soldiers, 50 members of the ATS, 200 dogs, and 14 horses moved to Sennelager, in the British occupied zone, of Germany.
Then in 1946 the RAVC, who was then assigned the task of managing the British Army's dog resources (training), moved out of Doncaster, and the Army Dog Training School was returned from Germany, to England's last Remount Depot at Melton Mowbray, and it became the Corps' Base, embracing all facets of its responsibility:
The Army Dog Training School
The Army School of Equitation
The Army School of Farriery
The RAVC Remount Depot
The RAVC Veterinary Hospital
Melton Mowbray's Remount Depot was used during WW-II as an equine assembly area; it was comprised of about 300 acres of rolling pasture, stables, that were adapted into kennels, and also some veterinary support facilities.
It was fortunate that the RAVC had developed war-time skills in the training and deployment of dogs, since the post war involvement in equines was to decline rapidly once the assets acquired for war service had themselves been "demobilised".
A Short History Of
The RAVC's Oversea Dog Schools
After 1945, RAVC's personnel from the Melton Mowbray Dog Training School founded other schools over the years in Palestine, Gibraltar, Malaya, Kenya, Singapore, Hong Kong and Cyprus acting as specialist advisers to the British armed forces against the terrorists.
The Defence Animal Support Unit RAVC
The Sennelager Unit, established in November 1945, had a major influence in the provision of Army dogs for many years, procuring and training dogs for deployment in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and also shipping many to RAVC units around the world.
Sennelager 1979, A Hungry Tracker and Friend.
Today, it continues to provide technical support for all animals on the continent, including a current commitment in Bosnia and Kosovo, and still occupies the same premises, that it moved into back in 1945.
The Defence Animal Support Unit RAVC
Medicina Lines, Seria
Today's Jungle Warfare Wing has it's origins in the Far East Training Centre set up in Malaya in 1948 at PULADA.
Renamed The Jungle Warfare School in 1959, it's primary aim was to train RA instructors for battalions engaged in operations during the Malayan Emergency, as well as Tracker Dogs.
In 1963 this emphasis changed to preparation for units serving in the Borneo Confrontation. The Jungle Warfare School moved to Singapore in 1975, when PULADA was handed over to the Malaysian Army, although the UK continued to use the facilities.
In 1975, when the UK government decided to withdraw British troops from Singapore, the Jungle Warfare Wing closed, and the Corps training unit moved to Hong Kong. But, in 1976 a small cadre of Gurkha Jungle Warfare Instructors set up a jungle training team in Brunei, where they continued to run jungle courses and maintain the British Army's hard-won jungle warfare experience from the campaigns in Burma, Malaya and Borneo. These instructors were called Training Team Brunei with some support given by the British Army's Brunei Garrison.
In 1982 the team was formerly established and moved to its own purposely built accommodation in Medicina Lines, Seria. On January 1, 2000, Training Team Brunei was incorporated into the (UK) School of Infantry Training Group and renamed the Jungle Warfare Wing.
RAVC, Melton Mowbray, Graduation Class, 1987
The RAVC's Dogs
The RAVC's aim was to make each type of dog, a specialist in its own shere there wasn't any attempt to teach more than one skill, a policy, that still continues today.
The dogs were trained as: Guard (Protection) Dogs, Trackers, Infantry Patrol Dogs, Sweep Dogs and Mine Detection Dogs; of them all, the Tracker Dog required the longest training.
But it was guard dogs, that was needed immediately after the war ended, to guard the dozens of new army posts and the air fields in Occupied Europe, North Africa, and the Far East.
But the need for guards dogs was soon over taken by urgent demands for specialist dogs to serve in Palestine and Cyprus, those dogs were what we now call Detectors and Trackers!
Crisis In Palestine,1946
And The First Detector Dogs!
One of the first use of Detector Dogs by the British Army was in the Middle East in Palestine. Palestine was a British mandate since the end of the first world war; Arab natives and Jewish settlers were fighting each other, over a small piece of desert that both had called home for hundreds of years and the British had made it a offense for either side to have weaponsl
But thousands of weapons, were being smuggle into Palestine to both sides, from susporters in Europe and the United States, and then quickly hidden from the English.
From their experiences during the last war, they knew that the dogs could detect the chemicals used in burried land mines, now the question was, could the dogs find hidden weapons as well?
Search Team Testing Harness
On Wessex Helicopter, 1985
No one knew for sure, so Army K9 trainers quickly went about selecting a handful of dogs to be trained at their Dog School in England and tested against electronic mine detectors.
During the testing, weapons burried at depths of five to seven feet in ploughed and sandy soil went undetected by the army electronic mine detectors, but were discoved with ease by the dogs. With this encouraging results in hand, ten trained dogs, with handlers drawn from the Royal Engineers, were sent out to Palestine.
Once there, the Detector Dog Teams quickly went to work in both the arab and jewish settlements, with remarkable results.
In one Jewish settlement, the dogs found a huge cashe of weapons hidden five feet under the concrete floor of a hen house; and in a Arab settlement, they found a steel drum burried five feet in the ground, under a pile of gravel, loaded with explosives!
The British Army was never able to completely stop the flow of weapons into Palestine, but they did mange to keep thousands of weapons from being used in a war that still continues today!
Footnote: Late 1969, the RAVC started to train army dogs to detect drugs, following the success of the Metropolian Police Dept. (ie: Scotland Yard); at first the dogs were only trained to find marijiuna, but the detection of other drugs soon followed.
History of Tracker Dogs!
Great Britain's first experience with what we now call, tracker dogs was just before World War 2 actually started, MI5 British Intelligence was parachuting secret agents and SAE units into the Nazi occupied territories on various missions, and the Germans were using special tracker dogs that were trained to hunt them down, by following their scent on the ground, with some degree of success.
Because of the Nazis' success, British Intelligence formed a small unit of dog trainers, who original aim was to find ways of baffling these new search dogs once they picked up a agent's scent trail.
While the use of search dogs wasn't new or even exceptional, as bloodhounds had been used for centuries by the police, in both Britain and Europe ...the fact, that these Nazi dogs were trained to be silent, and follow only one particular scent on the ground and were now being used by the military was!
The British Army quickly recognized the value of using such a dog, adapted them into their own War Dog program, but unlike the Germans, whose dogs were trained to attack their quarry, the British dogs were not.
Early on, it was also decided, that black and yellow Labrador retrievers, made far better trackers, than German Shepherds. Labs were more passive, adapted well, and favored the dead scent of ground sniffing. Labs were also considered a better choice for mine detecting, for the same reasons.
CTT Operation Malaya 1960's
A silent Tracker Dog is trained to follow only one scent on the ground, this scent must be given to the dog, by having it sniff an footprint, an article of clothing or a blood trail; each scent trial is as unique as an person's fingerprints, and the dog will follow only it among the hundreds of other odors that crosses its path.
The primary role of Tracker Dogs is to locate the enemy, but not engage, although they did.
Normally, Trackers work on a 18-foot lead, but there was a time during the Malayan Emergency, that the Army tried working them off lead because of the density of the jungle growth. The results were disastous, handlers couldn't see their dogs, much less read the dog's subtle alerts, after a number of patrols were ambushed, the practice was ended.
Of all the various types of service dogs, Trackers receive the longest training ....usually six to eight months at two years of age, and work for six years or so, before being retired.
During the war, in late 1943, British Fourth Army established "Wrecke Patrols," highly trained units, using both human scouts and Tracker Dogs to successfully find the hundreds of Japs, who were hiding on the islands in the Pacific Theatre. It would only be afew years later, that wrecke patrols would be developed into a highly trained combat concept by the British Army.
But the biggest success of Tracker Dogs was to come years later, against insurgents in the equatorial highlands of Kenya, the arid mountains of Cyprus, and the tropical jungles of both Malaya, and Borneo...to name afew of Britain's Small Wars!
Some years ago, Brigadier George Young, MBE, the former Director of the RAVC, observed, "It is not unreasonable to say that the War Dog is probably more firmly established as a part of the armed forces than ever before. Despite the breathtaking advances in modern armaments there will always be scope for the talents of trained dogs, no matter where the Army is called upon to operate. Nothing that man has invented, or is likely to invent in the foreseeable future can replace those qualities of which have made the dog such an outstanding member of the animal kingdom and the devoted servant of man." G.Y., 1953
Brigadier Young spoke more truly than perhaps he realized.