A Special Presentation From Hahn's 50th AP K-9, West Germany
UK ROYAL AIR FORCE
POLICE DOG HISTORY
By Stephen R. Davies
The Forties...The Beginning!
One morning in November 1942, Flight Lieutenant Hugh Bathurst-Brown, the Adjutant at RAF Staverton, near Gloucester, received a telephone call from Lieutenant Colonel [retired] J Y Baldwin, who asked Bathurst-Brown if he would like to command the newly formed Ministry of Aircraft Production Guard Dog School. Bathurst-Brown was quite fond of dogs and so he immediately accepted the offer.
Baldwin had served in the trenches in France, during the Great War between 1914 - 18 and was impressed by the way the Germans used their war dogs to good effect, not only in the guarding role but also to locate their wounded men and to pull their ammunition supplies around the battlefield. The dogs, which they used were called Deutsche Scheaferhunde, or German shepherd dogs and they possessed a keen nose, speed, endurance, aggressiveness and above all, courage. In addition, they seemed able to adapt in all types of weather condition. The breed was eventually introduced into England in 1920, but was called `the Alsatian¥. Baldwin was so impressed by what he had seen, that he later discussed the matter with a close friend, Captain Moore Brabazon, who was at the time, serving with the Royal Flying Corps. After the war ended, Baldwin left the Army and established his own breeding kennels and became something of an expert on the subject of the Alsatian. Baldwin maintained his close links with Moore Brabazon, who, after leaving the Royal Flying Corps, went into politics. However, when war broke out again in 1939, Brabazon was appointed as the Minister of Aircraft Production responsible for thousands of expensive aircraft and a large number of airfields and storage depots around the country. However, with the increasing threat of espionage and sabotage, he was deeply troubled with the problem of providing adequate security cover for his assets. Remembering the conversation he had shared with Jimmy Baldwin some years earlier on the subject of dogs, he turned to him for advice and assistance and in the end, Baldwin was able to persuade him that dogs were the most effective and economical method of guarding his interests. Convinced that dogs were the only economical way ahead, Brabazon obtained the necessary authority from the government to form the Ministry of Aircraft Production Guard Dog School and as a consequence, Baldwin was offered and accepted the appointment of Dog Advisor and Chief Training Officer. However, the actual administration of the school was to be carried out by the RAF, although the RAF Police at that stage were not involved.
Bathurst-Brown, having received his posting notice from the Air Ministry, reported to Woodfold, the site of the new school, situated six miles from Gloucester. While Woodfold turned out to be a comfortable requisitioned country manor house, set in its own pleasant grounds, the facilities made available to the school turned out to be rather sparse and comprised of a garage, which was used as the schools headquarters and administrative centre, and several stables, around a courtyard which were used to kennel the dogs. A RAF sergeant was posted in to assist Bathurst-Brown in setting everything up, but it turned out to be several more weeks before any further staff or indeed any dogs arrived to join them. Baldwin had hand picked his staff very carefully and they consisted of some of the top dog trainers and breeders from around the country. The dogs that were trained at the school were all donated by the public and consisted of a wide variety of breeds. As soon as the training program got under way, student dog handlers arrived from both the RAF and the United States 9th American Air Force, to undertake their initial six-week training course.
Since the beginning of the war, a considerable amount of manpower had been taken up by the RAF, in providing physical security to protect its stations, aircraft and equipment from the threat of sabotage, espionage and black market theft. Not only was the practice expensive but it also diverted a large number of essential personnel from other more important tasks connected with the war effort. As a result, a number of solutions were discussed at the Provost Marshal's Office, in an effort to alleviate the problem and the use of properly trained Alsatian dogs and handlers was suggested by two Assistant Provost Marshals; Squadron Leader S Barnes and Squadron Leader E Dangerfield. It seemed that there was a real possibility of disbanding the Ministry of Aircraft Guard Dog Training School at the end of the war and so Squadron Leader Barnes arranged for the Provost Marshal to meet Colonel Baldwin and view a demonstration of what the dogs and their handlers could do. The Provost Marshal was extremely impressed with what he had seen and when he returned to London he suggested that the Ministry of Aircraft Guard Dog Training School should be taken over by the RAF Police and that dogs would be a very cost effective and efficient way of protecting airfields and their valuable assets. After a considerable battle within the Air Ministry, approval was finally granted from the Chief of Air Staff himself, making the dog school part of the RAF Police organisation. It was a successful venture and at Woodfold on the 24th March 1944, the first batch of RAF Police NCOs commenced their training as dog handlers.
In 1946, the Ministry of Aircraft Production's Guard Dog School, which had by then, been fully taken over by the RAF Police and re-titled as the, RAF Police Dog Training School, moved from its cramped accommodation at Woodfold to larger premises at RAF Staverton. Although Baldwin remained as the Chief Training Officer, the school was commanded for the first time by a RAF provost officer, Flight Lieutenant R D Cooper. By the end of the year, the RAF Police School and the Headquarters moved to a more permanent base at RAF Staverton, where they joined the Dog Training School.
In early June 1947, the Three Counties Agricultural Show was held on the Staverton airfield and was attended by a huge audience. One of the biggest and most popular attractions of the day, turned out to be the parade of some forty smartly turned out, RAF Police dog handlers and their dogs, lead by Flight Lieutenant Cooper, the officer in charge of the RAF Police Dog School. In addition, the parade was accompanied by suitable music for the occasion, supplied courtesy of the RAF Police Band. It turned out to be a splendid day for everyone and marked the start of things to come for RAF Police dog participation in major public events. However, the RAF Police School and the Headquarters hardly had time to settle down at RAF Staverton, when later that month they were on the move once again, leaving the Dog Training School to remain at Staverton.
By 1948, the training of all RAF Police dogs and their handlers was firmly under the control of the branch, with Colonel Baldwin still in charge of all operational training. His original intention had been to train and use only the German shepherd breed for the task but problems arose when the supply of suitable public donations failed to maintain the requirements of the service. In an effort to overcome the problem, a breeding program was started but that too proved to be problematic. The program was not cost effective, because the dogs had to be looked after for about fifteen months, until they were old enough to be trained. Even at that point, many dogs were rejected because they didn't have the right qualities in responding to the training program. As a result, the experimental breeding program was abandoned and other suitable breeds, offered by the public were tried out by the service. The overall situation however, took a turn for the best, when in June, at the Olympia Stadium in London, the newly formed RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team, using their German shepherds, appeared for the very first time, at the Royal Tournament. The commentary throughout their performance was delivered by Group Captain Richdale, who described the RAF Police German shepherds as '£2,500 worth of high explosive dog'. The public loved them and as such, they were an instant success, proving to be a first rate publicity campaign for the branch and indeed the service. Both the Daily Telegraph and the Manchester Guardian newspapers reported that 'The RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team, under the command of Flight Lieutenant Cooper, stole the whole show'. After their first and highly successful public appearance, there were no further problems in obtaining suitable gift dogs from the general public, who it seemed, were only to willing to donate German shepherds to the RAF Police.
In 1949 in response to a request from the Commissioner of Police for the Federation of Malaya, for RAF Police assistance, two RAF Police dog handlers, Corporal's Stapleton and Thackray, were sent out to Malaya, to the Federation Police Training School in Kuala Lumpur, where they successfully organised and assisted in the training of a number of civil police dogs. The training program was a very successful venture and the dogs were subsequently used to effect, in numerous police operations against bandits in the difficult jungle territories.
On the 7th July 1949, their Majesties the King and Queen, together with Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Kent, attended the opening day of the first post war RAF Display, which was held over two days at RAF Farnborough and attended by some 80,000 members of the public. During the highly successful show, some 5,400 members of the RAF were on duty at the unit, with 400 of them being RAF Police personnel carrying out a wide spectrum of police and security commitments in support of the event. In addition, the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team also appeared during the display to entertain the crowds.
Today's RAF Volunteer Dog Demonstration Team
During February 1951, the RAF Police Dog Training School moved from RAF Staverton and joined the RAF Driving School at RAF Netheravon, on the edge of the Salisbury Plain. At the same time, plans were also made to move No 1 RAF Police Wing and the training school to the same unit later that year. Netheravon was one of the most historic RAF stations, having been one of the first permanent airfields built for the Royal Flying Corps during the Great War. However, during World War II, it had also taken on an active role when it was used to train glider pilots and to plan Operation Market Garden, the ill-fated Allied airborne landings at Arnhem in Holland.
As Her Royal Highness, Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, was leaving the Royal Tournament on the 19th June 1951, she commented on the fact that the Royal Air Force Police on the carpet guard, were not accompanied by any RAF Police dogs. Her Royal Highness suggested that Her Majesty Queen Mary would undoubtedly like to see the RAF Police dogs, when she visited the tournament later that week. Accordingly, two days later, Sergeant F Holland together with six handlers and their dogs, were presented to Her Majesty, as she left the Royal Box. At first she was a little hesitant in approaching them and even commented that she hoped they wouldn't bite her. They didn't and the presentation was a great success.
In the Far East, an estimated 30,000 people attended the 4th Singapore Air Display, which took place on the 1st September 1951, at Kallang Airport in Singapore. Accordingly, a large number of RAF Police personnel were on duty there carrying out a wide range of police and security duties at what was undoubtedly, the finest display of it's kind ever seen in that part of the world. While the flying displays of various aircraft, including the Vampire, the Meteor, the Dakota and the Sunderland Flying Boat, thrilled the assembled crowds, one of the highlights of the show was of course the excellent display, staged by the local and specially trained, RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team. The demonstration commenced with the six handlers and their dogs being marched onto the arena by Warrant Officer T B Whittaker, from No 2 RAF Police District, and included the full range of obedience, search, obstacle and criminal work
In January 1952, the RAF Police School and No 1 RAF Police Wing, finally completed the move from RAF Pershore to RAF Netheravon, and in doing so, joined up with both the Dog Training and the RAF Police Driving Schools. In compliance with a directive from the Air Ministry, the new station, commanded by Group Captain T R Champion, was duly re-titled as the Royal Air Force Police Depot.
In Hong Kong in April 1953, eleven RAF Police dogs and their handlers, under the command of Flight Lieutenant G Innes (a provost marshal in the making), appeared on a public parade for the first time in the colony to celebrate the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen.
Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin took up his retirement in October 1953, after thirteen years of being the inspiration of the RAF Police Dog Training School, which had, over that period, gone from strength to strength, earning an extremely high reputation in very wide circles. He was succeeded as the Chief Dog Training Officer, by Mr Charles Edward Fricker, who himself, had joined Baldwin right at the start when the school was formed at Woodfold. Unfortunately, after only a year of working at Woodfold, Mr Fricker had been conscripted to work in the coal mines as a 'Bevin Boy'. After the war had ended, he returned to the world of dogs and started his own kennels, breeding and showing off Alsatians. He formed a dog display team which proved to be extremely popular and they even performed before the Royal family at the Royal Inverness Show in 1948.
On the 16th June 1954, the first four members of the United States Air Force Police arrived at the RAF Police Depot at RAF Netheravon, where they began a training program with the Dog Training School. Although American personnel from the US Army Air Force had been trained as dog handlers, by the RAF, during World War II, they were the first policemen to become qualified dog handlers with the USAF. The four eager students were named as Airman 1st Class C Crutchfield from Virginia and Airmen 2nd Class C Misner from Missouri, E Johnson from Wisconsin and finally, L Lynn from Texas.
For a number of years, the day to day routine of feeding, grooming and exercising RAF Police dogs at the school had been carried out by members of the WRAF, who had been borrowed from the trade of Administration Orderly. Unfortunately, there had been no formal training course involved in their employment at the kennels, and that particular type of employment limited the career prospects of the girls who continued to serve in that capacity. Indeed, many of them never attained the rank of Leading Aircraftswoman but enjoyed the job so much that they were prepared, in most cases, to tolerate the many drawbacks involved. However, in 1957, as part of an overall restructuring of ground trade groups, the trade of Kennel Maid was, for the first time, officially recognised, and the sixteen kennel maids serving at RAF Netheravon became, for the first time, part of the RAF Police trade group structure. A formal training course was developed shortly after, during which the girls were taught not only how to care for the dogs on a daily basis, but also basic treatment techniques and how to prevent the spread of diseases and finally, general dog section administration. In addition, promotion prospects were opened up for the first time, and successful candidates could if they wished, attain the rank of corporal. Although the girls who enlisted as kennel maids thoroughly enjoyed their work, it was nevertheless a difficult, and at times, a very strenuous job, especially during the winter months.
On the 20th and 21st May 1958, the first annual RAF Police Dog Championship Trials were held at the RAF Police Depot before a large audience. The object of the trials was to encourage RAF Police dog handlers serving on stations to take a keen interest in the continuation training of their dogs and to improve their overall efficiency. At the same time it also allowed individual dog teams to demonstrate their initiative and commitment to the task of dog handling. The strict standards which were set for the championship trials equaled those imposed on the Alsatian Training Societies within the United Kingdom. The championship was open to all members of the RAF Police who were employed on dog handling duties within the United Kingdom. However, handlers serving, or indeed under training at the Depot were excluded from taking part. From the outset the competition was designed to be between individual RAF Police teams and was not intended to be a competition between RAF command formations or indeed police districts. Assistant Provost Marshals from each UK RAF Police District were tasked with carrying out an inspection of all dog teams working within their respective areas. Each officer was invited to select three prospective candidates, which, with the permission of their respective station commanders, were then invited to attend the championship trials at the depot. It was emphasised that the details of all those taking part in the trials were to be notified to the depot by the 19th April.
Three awards were prepared for the winners; the championship trophy, which would be retained by the winners unit for twelve months, was to be awarded to the dog handler whose dog gained the highest number of points during the competition. In addition, the dog handler would be presented with a personal award that he could keep on a permanent basis. A first class diploma was awarded to the runner up in the competition and finally, the dog handler who came third in the competition was awarded with a second-class diploma. After a combination of assessments throughout the year to determine which units had the most efficient teams, twenty dogs and their handlers were rigorously tested over a two-day period, before a panel of judges. In all, some twelve separate aspects of the discipline were stringently tested, emphasizing that the trial was not a circus act or drill display. The standards required by the judges were very high and not surprisingly, so were the performances. Each team was put through a set routine which included, basic obedience, a criminal attack under gunfire, obstacles, searching, tracking and finally the condition of each dog was thoroughly checked to ensure it was being maintained to the highest standards. At the end of a tough competition, the winner of the first trials and the Sabre Trophy, was announced as Acting Corporal D Hodgson and Air Dog Cindy, from RAF Waddington near Lincoln. The trophy, donated by Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs Douglas Bain, was presented to the winner by Air Commodore C M Stewart CBE, the AOC No 27 Group. The three judges involved in the first competition were naturally, Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin DSO, who had done so much to establish RAF Police dogs in the first place, Mrs G Hester of Croydon and Mr C H Belcher of Bingley.
Photo courtesy of RAF Odiham
Over in Cyprus on the 2nd February 1960, the first ever dog handling course to be held on the island, specially for the locally employed native RAF Police Auxiliaries, was successfully completed at RAF Nicosia. In all, seven Auxiliaries, trained by Corporal P Regan RAF Police, successfully completed their training and during the subsequent passing out parade, the Inspecting Officer, Squadron Leader A Smart BEM, of No 24 RAF Police District, congratulated the handlers and their instructor on their smart appearance, the condition of their dogs and the high standard of training which they had achieved. Shortly after, all seven took up their role as qualified handlers patrolling and guarding various RAF installations around Cyprus. In addition, because the scheme proved to be so successful, the idea was copied soon after in the Far East, where twelve volunteers from the RAF Police Auxiliaries, under the instruction of Sergeant J A Pearson, successfully completed a locally organised training course to become qualified dog handlers.
An estimated total of over a quarter of a million people attended the thirty performances of the 1960 Royal Tournament Show, at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, between the 22nd June and the 9th July. Amongst all the things, provided to thrill the crowds, it seemed that the star of the show turned out to be a three-year old RAF Police Dog by the name of Judge, and the crowds just loved him. The scenario for his popular performance happened to be a simulated RAF guided missile base, being patrolled by a RAF Police dog handler and his dog. Shortly after the lights in the arena dimmed, the team commenced their patrol, but suddenly the base came under a surprise attack from a group of armed saboteurs. In the initial stages, the team responded and the dog indicated the presence of the intruders. The handler, Corporal John Black, quickly challenged them and released his dog, but unfortunately, as Judge made his way towards the intruders, they shot him dead, and he immediately dropped to the floor of the arena and lay there motionless. As you can imagine, nearly every person in the audience gave out a loud sigh in shock as they witnessed poor Judge being cruelly gunned down. Indeed, night after night, many in the audience attempted to revive Judge by whistling at him and calling out his name, but Judge, the perfect actor, remained quite still and played his part wonderfully. After the demonstration ended and the team took up their positions in front of the Royal box, Judge remained quite inert on the floor where he had fallen. At that point the public were really getting concerned that Judge may really have been hurt. However, they need nor have worried because just as the Royal salute was about to be given, he suddenly sprang to life and quickly joined his handler in the line up to pay their respects. The crowds loved him and of course their loud cheers filled the entire house night after night. By then the high professional reputation of RAF Police dog teams was indeed an extremely high profile public relations exercise and accordingly there was no shortage of publicly donated dogs.
Tower of London, 1962. Photo courtesy S. Davies
During August and September 1960, the RAF Police School moved home once again to RAF Debden, which was situated three miles South East of Saffron Walden in the county of Essex. No 2 (Driving Training) and No 4 (Advanced Training) Squadrons were the first units to move, followed shortly after by No 1 (Basic Training) Squadron. However, No 3 (Police Dog Training) Squadron had to be left behind at RAF Netheravon, until suitable accommodation and training facilities could be built at Debden to house it.
In 1963, with brand new facilities having been completed, the RAF Police Dog Training School joined the Depot at RAF Debden and soon after on the 31st July, RAF Netheravon closed. At that point, the full time services of a veterinary surgeon were required by the RAF to look after and advise on the health of the large number of dogs in service with the branch. Accordingly, Mr John Allan Fleming, a veterinary surgeon running his own private practice in nearby Saffron Waldron accepted the offer and was subsequently titled; Veterinary Advisor to the RAF. After settling into their new accommodation, Mr Charles Fricker introduced the competition known as the Annual Working Dog Efficiency Competition. To obtain the results, he had to travel to every RAF station which had RAF Police dogs established on it and subject both the handlers and their dogs to a number of efficiency tests. As soon as the results were known, the best teams were invited to the Depot, where, to compete for the title, `RAF Police Dog Champion of the Year¥, they demonstrated their skills before an assembled audience. To present the prizes, Mr Fricker, enlisted the assistance of the Provost Marshal and other notable officers of air rank and before long the trials proved to be a very popular annual event, so much so, that similar events were subsequently organised in every overseas command.
In Cyprus, with the closure of RAF Nicosia, a new RAF Police Dog Training School was opened in March 1966, at RAF Episkopi under the control of a RAF Police sergeant dog handler.
The RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team had become so popular by that period, that towards the end of the summer 1969, the Parachute Regiment, who were organising a public relations tour around Canada and the United States of America, extended an invitation for the team to join them. The Provost Marshal duly approved the request and later in the year the trip went ahead. Accordingly, as they worked their way through the hectic but enjoyable tour schedule, it proved to be a very successful venture indeed and as a result, the public on that side of the Atlantic, showed their great warmth and admiration for the British Military and in particular, the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team, at every venue in which they performed.
Protection Dog photo courtesy of RAF Marham
In January 1970, the Provost Marshal advised the MOD about the increased involvement of service personnel in the abuse of illegal and dangerous drugs. Throughout the hippie decade of the sixties the RAF Police had been monitoring the use of illegal and controlled drugs by society in general and had become alarmed with the increased ease at which the drugs could be obtained and used. At that time, drug abuse happened to be a major problem within the United States' own armed forces and the problem continued to grow. To prevent that situation from developing within the RAF, the Dog Training Flight at the Depot was tasked with training two RAF Police dogs in the detection of the drug cannabis in all it's associated forms. However, before training began, liaison was established with the Metropolitan Police who had, for a number of years, been successfully using their dogs to detect the drug. In response, to the approach, they provided invaluable advice and assistance to the RAF Police NCOs tasked with setting up the training program, which it was envisaged would take between ten to twelve weeks to complete. As the experiment quickly proved successful, the training moved on to include, the detection of other dangerous drugs and as a consequence, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, began to show a particular interest in the break through.
RAFP Museum's Baldwin Room. Photo S. Davies
In early April 1971, the Provost Branch was saddened to learn of the death of Colonel J W Baldwin, DSO, the founder and 'father' of the RAF Police Dog organisation. Although he had been in retirement since 1953, he had continued to maintain his strong links with the branch and was immensely proud of his connection with the service and of course, the highest standard of achievement which he had worked so hard to attain, during the time spent working with the RAF Police. Five years after he had retired and as a mark of gratitude and respect for all that he had done, a room in the RAF Police Museum, dedicated to the dogs which he loved so much, was named as 'The Baldwin Room'.
In 1975 the RAF Police School moved from RAF Debden to RAF Newton, near Nottingham but the Dog Training School remained behind for a while longer, until work on a new kennel complex had been completed. Unfortunately, with the move to RAF Newton, the title 'RAF Police Depot' was lost once again and the school reverted to being just another lodger unit, occupying space on the station.
In September 1976, Mr Fricker retired and handed over his appointment and responsibilities as the Chief Training Officer (Dogs), to Mr Terry McHaffie, who had been his deputy for many years. During his time in charge of training police dogs, Mr Fricker had ensured that the dogs were exposed to as much publicity as possible, which had included many appearances on television at home and abroad. Over the years his methods in doing so, had been extremely effective. The public at large, had a very healthy respect for the branch and it's dogs, which they had continued to donate to the RAF over the years. Indeed, whenever the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team appeared in public, as they frequently did around the country, the shows were always very well attended and that in itself proved to be one of the organisations' best public relations exercises.
Photo courtesy of the Hants & Dorset Branch, RAFPA
Following a very successful two year trial period during which two RAF Police drug detection dogs, on secondment with their handlers, had proved their effectiveness in combating the illegal importation of illicit drugs, Her Majesty's Commissioner of Customs & Excise decided to form a national force of drug detection dogs to detect the smuggling of heroin and cannabis. In May 1978, the RAF Police School was selected as the most suitable and qualified establishment in the country to undertake the program of training the forty additional Customs handlers and their dogs, required for the task. A new training cell was quickly established within the Dog Training Flight and soon after, the fourteen week training program commenced under the watchful eye of Flight Sergeant J Coulson.
Pic by SAC Barker, RAF Waddington
In October 1980, following a breakdown of negotiations between the Prison Officers Association and the Home Office, the prison officers commenced industrial action and refused to accept further prisoners into the system, which resulted in many prisoners being confined in cells at police stations all over the country. As the situation seriously deteriorated and the system was on the point of collapse, military assistance was requested by the Government and Operation Ruddock, was quickly put into action. In order to relieve the acute problem of prisoners being held within police cells, a temporary prison was hastily established and secured at Rolleston Camp, an Army deployment encampment, located on the bleak Salisbury Plain. Although the RAF Police NCOs involved in the task, they were not employed on duties inside the prison, they nevertheless provided the necessary outer security cordon. As such, the custodial tasks remained the responsibility of the senior prison staff and both Army and RAF personnel detached in from the military detention centres. As the operation got underway, a large number of RAF Police dog handlers were detached into the camp to carry out external security patrols to prevent escapes from succeeding. Although the RAF Police dogs are extremely well trained, in comparison to the dogs used by the Prison Service, they quickly gained a reputation, amongst the inmates, of being rather savage beasts. Accordingly, no escape attempts were made throughout the entire five-month operation.
The RAF Police had by 1982, been working with dogs for some forty years, and had earned for itself a reputation second to none. Not only were patrol dogs being trained but the specialist training of the dogs used to detect the presence of drugs and explosives had been a very successful venture. It was therefore, rather pleasing to see that during the year, a well wishing member of the public kindly donated the 10,000th dog into service with the branch.
In 1984 Warrant Officer T Figgins and Sergeant Geordie Rowe from the RAF Police School, were detached to Thailand. Their successful three month visit had been brought about following a request from the Thai Government, for the RAF Police to assist them, to train a number of their Air Force dogs to detect firearms and explosives. Throughout the detachment the two men had been hosted by the Royal Thai Air Force at Korat, situated some two hundred kilometres north of the capital, Bangkok. After quickly settling in to their new environment, the two men had prepared their intensive training program, which to complicate matters slightly, had involved learning enough of the Thai language so that the basic commands could be given to the dogs being trained.
As the 'Cold War' between the East and the West continued to thaw, the co-operation between the British and Soviet authorities, in the war against the importation of contraband and illicit drugs, went from strength to strength, as the number of successful customs operations increased. Consequently, a most unusual and prestigious visit took place at the RAF Police School on the 14th September 1987, when the First Deputy Chairman of the Soviet State Customs Board & Council of Ministers; Mr Vitaliy Konstantonovich Boyarov, accompanied by Lieutenant General Pankin of the Soviet Ministry of the Interior, were entertained at the Dog Training Squadron. The visitors had been very impressed by the training carried out by the Dangerous Drug Search Dog Cell at the school and had asked, during their week long visit to the UK, to see it for themselves. After being met by the Station Commander, Group Captain R E Holliday and Wing Commander A V Schofield; the Officer Commanding the RAF Police School, they were given a full briefing and a step by step demonstration of the techniques used in the training of the drug detection dogs by the Search Cell staff. At the end of the visit, Mr Boyarov, impressed by what he had seen, presented a Soviet State Customs Board Medal to the RAF Police School, where at the time of writing this book it was displayed within the `Baldwin Room¥ at the RAF Police Museum.
The Ninties To The Present!
Two members of the RAF Volunteer
Dog Demonstration Team. RAF Photo
In the Middle East on the 24th February, the coalition ground offensive into Kuwait began and after only four days, the territory was liberated and the Iraqi forces swiftly defeated. As the overall operation was completed in a very short space of time, a huge number of Iraqi prisoners of war were suddenly captured by, or surrendered to, the coalition forces, making the task of guarding them a momentous commitment. To assist in overcoming the problem, RAF Police dog handlers were instantaneously deployed to the prisoner of war (POW) compounds, known as the 'Mary Hill Camp'. The first few hundred prisoners arrived during the evening of the 28th February, however, over the days that followed the number quickly rose to around four thousand prisoners. The RAF Police dog teams were used on a variety of tasks, providing twenty-four hour coverage at the camp. Apart from being used to patrol the perimeter wire of the enclosures containing the captured Iraqi troops they were also used for escorting prisoners from the Chinook helicopters, which brought them into the camp. The teams worked hard in extremely difficult conditions and it was fairly common for a single dog team to be controlling upwards of four hundred prisoners at a time. On one occasion, the Coldstream Guards Regiment who were responsible for administration at the camp, issued a supply of sweets and coca-cola to the prisoners. Unfortunately, there was not enough to go around and a riot quickly occurred. Additional dog teams were deployed to the incident and order was quickly restored but not before a few prisoners had been bitten by the dogs. A few more incidents of a similar nature occurred over the days that followed and again the speedy intervention of the dog teams quickly brought the situations under control. By the 11th March, all the prisoners had been transferred from the Mary Hill Transit Camp over to the camps set up by the US Army and accordingly, the RAF Police dog teams were stood down from their guarding task.
After a most unpopular directive from the MOD, the RAF Police Dog Training Squadron, after much protest to prevent it from happening, finally merged with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps on the 1st April 1991, to form the Joint Service Defence Animal Centre. The Headquarters of the new formation was located at Melton Mowbray, under the command of an Army officer; Lieutenant Colonel P A Roffey RAVC, with a RAF provost officer; Wing Commander P F Leeds as his deputy. The new unit was divided up into two separate wings. The Army wing, which looked after the Army's horses and the dogs used to detect firearms and explosives, remained at Melton Mowbray, while the RAF Police Dog Training Squadron, was re-titled as the Dog Training Wing (Newton) of the Defence Animal Centre and remained at RAF Newton, training the general patrol and drug detection dogs. In addition, the Newton Wing continued to train dogs for HM Customs & Excise, the Royal Navy, the Scottish Prison Service and for the American Forces who were stationed within the UK.
During the same month, as a result of the continuing terrorist activity on the UK mainland, discussions were held at the MOD by the Provost Marshal, with a view to increasing the internal counter terrorist measures at a large number of RAF stations around the country. Although the use of patrol dogs was thought to be the most efficient way of providing that deterrent, a substantial increase in the establishment of large dog sections at every station would have proved very expensive indeed and would have been totally rejected right from the very start. As an alternative, a proposal was accepted to trial the use of a small number of specially selected High Profile Counter Terrorist (HPCT) RAF Police dogs at three RAF stations over a three-month period. The trial at Shawbury, Cranwell and Uxbridge, was subsequently organised and controlled by the Provost Marshal's Dog Inspector and started in July 1991. The new concept of using RAF Police Dogs in the HPCT role was quite simple and extremely cost effective to operate. Each station was allocated two trained dogs which were teamed up with qualified RAF Police dog handlers, already established on the strength of the unit to carry out general police duties. Up until that point, RAF Police NCOs who were employed as dog handlers had been specially established purely for that role and as such, conformed to a special shift pattern which worked alongside those of their colleagues employed on general police duties. However, during the trial period, the NCOs handling the HPCT dogs were incorporated into the normal pattern of shifts, accompanied by their dogs whenever they carried out the regular foot and mobile patrols around the station. At the end of the trial period, the venture was deemed to have been highly successful and their use in that role continued to be operated and expanded to other RAF stations around the country.
Closer to home, the use of RAF Police dogs were being closely studied once again 1n 1994 and proposals were put forward by the Army to have all RAF Police dogs dual handled, in a further effort to reduce the overall costs involved. Unfortunately, that was a practice adopted by the Army and it was being fiercely fought off by the RAF, who despite having their limited number of HPCT dogs dual handled, saw the general concept of dual handling as unsuited to the work of their dogs. In addition, further proposals were also put forward to disestablish the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team and the trade of Kennel Assistant. Again, the branch was facing difficult decisions and the Dog Demonstration Team quickly began looking for outside sponsorship. As you can imagine, over that period, with so much uncertainty about and so many studies being conducted, many RAF personnel wondered what the future would hold for them and those serving in the rank and file of the RAF Police, were certainly no exception.
On a glorious afternoon in August 1994, RAF Newton hosted the 37th and final RAF Police (UK) Dog Trials to be held, before the planned division of the school sent basic police training to RAF Halton and dog training to Melton Mowbray. The event was recorded on film by the BBC, who had been invited to the unit to make a presentation for their `BBC East Midlands Today¥ program. In addition to over 2000 members of the general public who turned up to watch the event, the principle guests of the Provost Marshal were Air
Vice Marshal Sir Timothy and Lady Garden who were invited to present the prizes to the winning teams. At the end of an extremely competitive event, the 1994 winners of the RAF Police (UK) Dog Trials were declared as Corporal Ian Dormund and Air Dog Gundo from RAF Kinloss, followed up by Corporal Andrew Bednall and Air Dog Tia from RAF Aldergrove, who took second place and Corporal Anna Marie Cameron and Air Dog Bruce from RAF Northolt who took third place.
News Clipping of the RAF Dog Team, 1992
Sadly after forty-five years, during which millions of people had been trilled and excited by their spectacular and professional public performances, the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team, under the final command of Flying Officer Tracey Flett, was finally disbanded on the 18th September 1994. Although various attempts had been made to save the team by obtaining private sponsorship, the price set to maintain it [£240,000 per year] proved unattractive and no one was willing to take on the commitment. The melancholy occasion was marked a month later at RAF Newton with a reunion, attended by both past and serving members of the team. From that point on, it was intended that all future dog displays given at all major public events, such as the Royal Tournament and the major air displays around the country, would be provided by an operational team of both RAF Police and Army dog handlers from the DAC at Melton Mowbray.
Although the facilities at the DAC were very basic in comparison to those left behind at Newton, the RAF Police dog trainers quickly adjusted to their new surroundings and continued to carry out their established task as best they could. From that point on, RAF Police NCOs who volunteered to become dog handlers were instructed to report to the DAC to undergo the basic dog course. The training was divided into three modules; the first being where the student is instructed in the technique of handling and looking after a fully trained patrol dog. Phase two develops the handler in the important art of teasing or baiting a trained and untrained dog to attack and finally the last part of the course sees the handler teamed up with his of her new partner - the dog. Qualified handlers who were successfully selected to become either a specialist armaments and explosive search (AES) handler or dangerous drug search (DDS) handler, returned to the DAC to undergo a grueling sixteen-week course to qualify as an AES handler or a ten-week course to become a DDS handler. During AES training the student and his dogs are trained in the technique of safely searching for and recovering weapons, ammunition and explosives. Training for DDS handlers and their dogs follows a similar pattern and on successful completion of the course the dogs are able to detect the presence of cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines and heroin. On successful completion of training both AES and DDS dog teams are posted onto the establishment of RAF P&SS regions where their specialist services are heavily in demand.
Unfortunately, following the transfer of dog training to the DAC at Melton Mowbray and the disbandment of the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team, it seemed that the overall profile of RAF Police dogs had dwindled. Indeed, an annual event where the demonstration team were really missed was of course the Royal Tournament, which had been forced to include civilian dog display teams in the program. Although the struggle continued within the branch to re-establish the demonstration team, it seemed that the Provost Marshal, for some unexplained reason, was firmly against the idea. Notwithstanding, individual RAF Police dog handlers and sections around the 'RAF world' continued working hard to enhance the skills of their dogs and indeed, a number of those operational handlers regularly came together, often at short notice, much to the delight of their audiences, to form semi-official display teams at RAF Open Days and other public events. In addition, many of the displays performed by the dog teams invariably supported events designed to raise much needed funds for worthwhile charities around the country. As the 1997, drew to a close, a television documentary series was filmed at the DAC, during which a number of RAF Police dog trainers, stationed with the agency, gave an extremely good account of themselves as they demonstrated their professional skills when training dogs in the attack and specialist search roles. Soon after, although not unfortunately at the Royal Tournament, RAF Police dogs featured once again at Earls Court in London in order to promote the 'Good Citizen Dog Scheme', an initiative designed to highlight the benefits of owning and caring for pet dogs. Taking part in the initiative were Corporal P Bass and Air-dog Khan from RAF Honington, Corporal S Nicholas and Air-dog Arnie from RAF Lyneham and Flight Sergeant's G Mills and R Hoare from the Provost Marshals Dog Inspectorate.
On the 29th June five RAF Police dogs and their handlers from the recently formed RAF Police (Volunteer) Dog Demonstration Team appeared on the 'Good Morning' television programme alongside dozens of show business celebrities in order to raise thousands of pounds for charity. The police dogs, all gifts to the Defence Animal Centre, after starting life as unwanted pets, made their appearance during the 'Get up and Give Appeal', to demonstrate the skills which had brought them accolades at the 'Crufts National Dog Show ' earlier in the year. The live display, which came from the Thames Embankment in London, helped to raise much needed monies for a number of worthy charities which included; Home Start, National Benevolent Fund for the Aged, Mind, The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the National Eczema Society.
In July, it was announced by the Ministry of Defence, that after the '1999 Royal Tournament', held at Earls Court between 20th July - 2nd August, the military tattoo would not be held again. The news brought to an end yet another remarkable public military event, which fell victim to the seemingly never ending defence cuts. It was therefore a fitting tribute that the RAF Police (Volunteer) Dog Demonstration Team appeared once again to thrill the crowds at the last ever show. The team under the command of Flight Lieutenant P Fyfe (PMSU) and assisted by Flight Sergeant R Hoare (PMDI) comprised; Sergeants M Watson (RAF Waddington) and P Bass (RAF Waddington); Corporals P Barass, D Lane, R Heath, N Lyons, K Moar, S Hancock, B Price, S Parker, B Clifton, M Jackman, T Bird and J Hodgson. The Royal Tournament or Military Skill at Arms Pageant as it was originally known by had first been presented to the public in London in 1881. It had been an instant success and during its one hundred and eighteen years representatives from the four arms of the British Forces along with visiting Empire, Commonwealth and foreign troops had demonstrated their skills to an enthusiastic public. In recent years some of the more memorable displays included; the Royal Naval Field Gun Team, The Royal Marines Band, The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, The Massed Bands of the British Forces, The RAF Queens Colour Squadron, The Royal Signals Motor-cycle Team and of course the RAF Police Dog Demonstration Team but to name a few. During a very emotional final show, a number of prominent people and the public were already calling for the tournament to be saved. However, once again it seemed that the cost of staging the event, both in manpower and financial terms, far outweighed its value. In addition to the show being staged in the arena, the tournament also played host to a plethora of static military displays, information centres and recruiting stands.
NEXT: POST WAR: SHOWA AND WIESBADEN
...THE U.S.A.F. FIRST SENTRY DOG SCHOOLS
Acknowledgement: Our thanks to Stephen R Davies for writing the History of the Royal Air Force Police Dogs for K-9 History. Mr Davies, a member of the RAFPA, is a twenty plus year veteran of the RAF Police, and is the author of the book: "The History of the Royal Air Force Police," published by Minerva Press; he is currently working on his second book about the RAF Police.
TOM NEWTON SITE BUILDER