The earliest known use of dogs in a war was by Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 BC. The ferocious Lydian dogs ran down, attacked, and killed some invaders. Dogs were used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Sarmatians, Slavs and ancient Britons.
During World War One, some combatant nations used dogs in the search for wounded soldiers. The so-called Red Cross dogs were trained to seek out wounded soldiers and carried medical supplies in saddlebags.
An American Pit Bull dog called Stubby became the most decorated dog during the first world war and was even given the honour of being promoted to Sergeant. Stubby served with the 102nd Infantry, participating in four offensives. His first taste of combat was on February 5th, 1918, at Chemin des Dames. During a raid to take Schieprey in April 1918, Stubby was wounded in the foreleg. He was sent to the rear for convalescence, and when he recovered from his wounds, Stubby returned to the trenches. Stubby learned to warn his comrades of gas attacks having been gassed himself. Stubby has even been attributed with the single handed (single-pawed) capture of a German spy in the Argonne.
In the Western Desert Campaign of World War Two, in 1941, a small female crossbreed dog was found by soldiers of the 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. The soldiers named the dog Titch, and it was nicknamed The Desert Rat. Titch acted as a mascot to the Battalion. In 1943, the dog was passed to Rifleman Thomas Walker. Titch accompanied Walker whilst on the front line usually riding on the bonnet of a Bren-gun carrier or jeep. Titch was awarded the Dickin Medal, the animal Victoria Cross, in 1949 for her actions during the war.
Even now, dogs are ideal assets in the theatre of warfare. So much so that in the 2011 US Navy SEALs used Cairo, a Belgian Malinois military dog, in Operation Neptune Spear in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2021
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