Semper Fidelis Anzac Day 2017

April 22, 2017

As Australians ready themselves to pause and pay respect to the brave men and women of the Australian Armed Forces, K9 Solutions Australia also turn their attention to the war dogs that have served the nation so proudly.

It is suspected that humans have been using dogs in warfare since the animals were first domesticated more than 15,000 years ago.

Detail from the “Alexander Sarcophagus” depicting Alexander with one of his favorite dogs Peritus. Photo Credit: Vanni/Art Resource, New York.

The earliest recorded use of dogs in battle was by Alyattes of Lydia against the Cimmerians around 600 BC when packs of dogs were let loose on the Cimmerian soldiers.

Over the centuries war dogs have been used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians, Sarmatians and the Slavs. The Romans had whole companies composed entirely of dogs. Attila the Hun used powerful Molosser dogs in his campaigns, while the Spanish Conquistadors were said to have used armoured dogs that had been trained to kill. In the United States, the American pitbull terrier was used in the Civil War both as a means of protection for soldiers and to send messages.

"I walked over the battlefield and among the slain, a poodle killed bestowing a last lick upon his dead friend’s face. Never had anything on any battlefield caused me a like emotion." - Napoleon Bonaparte.

From their use by nearly every ancient city state through to William the Conqueror, successive generations of English rulers and leaders; Napoleon; and Frederick the Great, dogs have undergone active service at the sides of their masters.

Left to right: War Dogs 103 Nell, 102 Trick and 101 Buller (Bullet).Photo Credit: Australian War Memorial.

Airedales were the preferred dog breed used by the British Army in World War I. They were trained by Colonel Richardson, who established the British War Dog School in 1917.

Airedale war dogs were trained for a variety of roles, including scouts, messengers, sentry dogs, patrol dogs, carrier or draught dogs, and Red Cross dogs (also known as ambulance dogs, mercy dogs and sanitary dogs). They saved thousands of lives and over 3,000 Airedales lost their lives serving in World War I.

An Airedale named Buller (also known as Bullet) was one of the first Australian war dogs, along with Nell, a Cross Setter, and Trick, a Collie, to serve for Australia in World War I. Buller served with the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Australian Divisions in France.

Main Image: Airedales of the Western Front WWI – Out of the Trenches and into the Sunshine by Anne Johnson.

Australia has a long tradition of using dogs during times of war, with man's best friend having served alongside Australian troops since the First World War. Initially they were enlisted for sentry duty to guard military equipment. However, it became apparent that the dog’s qualities of loyalty, intelligence and devotion could be better utilised and their roles expanded to carrying messages, ammunition and medical equipment. Towards the end of the First World War they were often used to search for and aid the many wounded among the battlefield casualties that lay littered across no man’s land.

Through the 100 years since the The Great War, dogs in the Australian Armed Forces have played their part in a number of war and peacekeeping capacities, the most recent deployments have included Somalia, East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan.

Stories continue to surface about the unending loyalty of war dogs. But the loyalty and devotion shown by these dogs was not always paid back in kind by the establishment. Like the faithful mounts that had carried the Australian Light Horsemen to glory in the Middle East during the First World War, protocol dictated animals who served in overseas theatres were not allowed to return to Australia.

Squadrons of the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade in formation on horseback at Gaza, February 1918. Image: Australian War Memorial.

In the Middle East, many of the Australian soldiers made the heart breaking decision to shoot their horses rather than abandon them to an uncertain fate. More than half a century later, the orders to abandon dogs that had been so loyal to their masters and country was one of the most bitterly resented orders in Australian military history. For the diggers who served alongside their faithful canine companions, the order to leave them behind was a bitter postscript to the Vietnam war. The laws were changed in 1993 and Australian Defence Force dogs serving overseas are now repatriated back to Australia after the required time in quarantine.

Dogs had been used in conflicts from World War I to Vietnam, but it was only in the Afghanistan War that they were integrated into soldiers’ units.

Today the contribution of Australian war dogs is rightly recognised in the community as part of the Anzac tradition.

Artist Anne Johnson of South Australia recently held her exhibition ‘Remembering War Dog’, displaying twenty one portraits of brave and faithful canines which served in conflicts spanning from the First World War to Afghanistan. This Anzac Day, it is through her paintings that K9 Solutions Australia remember and pay tribute to the dogs that have served our nation so heroically, some paying the ultimate price in doing so.

Unofficial Mascot/Guard Dog, World War 2, Egyptian Terrier

Horrie the War Dog was the unofficial mascot for the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion of the Second Australian Imperial Force during the Second World War. Early in 1941, Horrie was a stray dog and befriended by Australian soldier Private Jim Moody. Private Moody was serving in the unit when it was stationed in Ikingi Mariut area of the Western Desert, Egypt. Horrie subsequently followed the battalion throughout various locations in the Middle East, Greece and Crete and was adopted as their unofficial mascot.

Horrie was intelligent and easily trained. Although the unofficial mascot, he acted as a guard dog and many times gave early warning of the approach of enemy aircraft, saving many lives. He was promoted to the rank of Corporal. He survived the sinking of the Costa Rica on which the unit was being evacuated from Greece to Crete. In Crete, he was wounded by a bomb splinter, which had to be removed with a knife. Horrie was smuggled back to Australia in 1942 when Private Moody was repatriated.

In early 2016, a sculpture in Horrie’s memory was installed at the Man from Snowy River Museum, 103 Hansen St, Corryong.

Horrie the War Dog Memorial located within the Man from Snowy River Museum, Corryong.
Man from Snowy River Museum, 103 Hansen St, Corryong, Victoria.

Tracker Dog D6N03, South Vietnam, Black Labrador Cross

Originally purchased from a Sydney dog pound, Caesar was trained in Australia by Private Phil Little and Private Peter Haran. Caesar was deployed to South Vietnam with 2 RAR/NZ in 1967. His handler was Private Peter Haran. Caesar later served with 1 RAR (1968-1969), followed by 5 RAR (1969-1970) and 7 RAR (1970-1971). He was retired in September 1970 and was given a new home at the British Embassy in Saigon.

Left: Caesar with his handler, Pete Haran (left) on duty in Vietnam. Right: Casear was the only one of the 11 dogs serving with the Australian Army to have his portrait done by the official war artist in Vietnam, Ken McFayden.

Private Peter Haran said that Caesar was not the prettiest dog he ever saw, but he was by far the best tracker dog ever trained at the School of Infantry. They had an extremely close bond. Because of Australian Defence Force Policy, and Australian quarantine laws at the time, Caesar and the other Australian tracker dogs sent to Vietnam were not brought back to Australia. This was particularly hard on each individual handler and the tracking team as a whole.

Black dogs were chosen for Australian tracking dogs in Vietnam because their dark colour acted as camouflage in the jungle and at night.

There are commemorative plaques remembering the Vietnam tracker dogs at Goolwa, South Australia and Bribie Island, Queensland.

Military Police Dog A443, East Timor, German Shepherd

Rutley was trained as a Military Police Dog at Oakley in Queensland when he was two years old. Rutley had been a show dog, pure bred working line German Shepherd, from a family in the Darling Downs area. However, Rutley became too aggressive to show in dog competitions and so was donated to the Military Police Dog Platoon. During training, he was teamed up with handler Corporal Dean Hedberg.

They were first deployed to East Timor in 2006. Rutley was extremely good at his job as a Military Police Dog and developed an extremely close working relationship with Corporal Dean Hedberg. In October 2006, after five months in country, Rutley and Corporal Dean Hedberg returned to Australia. In April 2008, Rutley was deployed again to East Timor with Sergeant Dean Hedberg. On return to Australia, Rutley served the Australian Defence Force under Sergeant Dean Hedberg’s control at the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland.

Rutley passed away on 29 February 2012 at the age of 8 years.

Explosives Detection Dog EDD 455, Afghanistan, White Labrador

Trained at the School of Military Engineering in Sydney by Corporal John Cannon, Storm was posted in 2008 to 1 CER in Darwin. Corporal John Cannon and Storm were deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 where they served with the Reconstruction Task Force 1 at Tarin Kowt in Orūzgān Province, Afghanistan. Explosives Detection Dogs wear oilskin style dog coats to protect them from the cold during the Afghanistan winters.

EDD Storm in his winter kit, Afghanistan 2009. Image John Cannon.

Storm loved his work and performed extremely well as an Explosives Detection Dog. He had many ‘finds’ which saved the lives of many Australian personnel and equipment. Storm had two rotations to Afghanistan and finally returned to Australia in June 2011 and served at the School of Military Engineering based at Moorebank in NSW until he became unwell.

Storm passed away on 13 December 2013.

Special Operations Combat Assault Dog SO 011, Afghanistan, Belgian Malinois

Quake was born into the Royal Australian Air Force puppy program in 2008. He was raised and mentored by an Air Force dog handler until 2011. He was first deployed to Afghanistan from September 2011 until December 2011 and posted to the Special Air Service Regiment. His second deployment was in February 2012.

He was killed in action on 25 June 2012. Quake was tracking insurgents and was shot at close range with small-arms fire whilst tackling one of the other insurgents. He had spoilt the insurgents ambush and showed the Australian patrol where they were, but had paid the ultimate price. Quake’s action saved the lives of his handler and the other members of the patrol who were approaching the position. Quake was a true hero. Quake’s body was repatriated back to Australia.

Quake is remembered at the Two Wells RSL commemorative park for those who died serving in Afghanistan.

Image: Department of Defence

Explosives Detection Dog EDD 476, Afghanistan, Kelpie Cross

Herbie was trained as an Explosives Detection Dog in Brisbane when he was two years old. He was paired with Sapper Darren Smith who was a combat engineer. They developed a very close working relationship and trained closely for six months. In March 2010 they were deployed together to Afghanistan with Mentoring Task Force 1. Their duties included conducting foot patrols out of Patrol Base Wali with Mentoring Team Alpha as part of a broader strategy to deny the Taliban access to the Mirabad Valley.

On the morning of 7 June 2010, Mentoring Team Alpha conducted a routine foot patrol from Patrol Base Wali. Herbie had located an explosives device and they were investigating the metal signature on the footpad of a creek bed when it was triggered remotely by the Taliban. The blast killed Herbie, and mortally wounded Sapper Darren Smith. Herbie’s ashes are buried with Sapper Darren Smith at the Pinnaroo Lawn Cemetery and Crematorium in Brisbane.

The National Military and Service Working Dog Memorial located at Wacol, Queensland is in memory of Herbie and Sapper Darren Smith.

The Military and Service Working Dog National Memorial at the RSPCA Animal Campus, Wacol. In memory of Sapper Darren Smith and Explosive Detection Dog Herbie. Image: Commonwealth of Australia.
RSPCA Animal Campus, 139 Wacol Station Road, Wacol, Queensland.

Explosives Detection Dog EDD 436, Afghanistan, Black Labrador Cross Newfoundland

Sarbi is one of the best known Australian military working dogs. She was an Explosives Detection Dog attached to the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) in Orūzgān Province, Afghanistan. During a Taliban ambush on the 2nd September 2008 (during the action for which Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross), Sarbi was separated from her handler Warrant Officer David Simpson when a bullet cut through her lead.

Sarbi spent almost 14 months missing in action in Afghanistan in an area that was a Taliban stronghold. Somehow she survived and was found by an American soldier. She was reunited with Australian forces and her handler, and was repatriated to Australia. On return to Australia, Sarbi spent five years in retirement, living with handler Warrant Officer David Simpson and his family.

On 5 April 2011, Sarbi was awarded an RSPCA Purple Cross Award at the Australian War Memorial. The medal recognises the deeds of animals that have shown outstanding service to humans, particularly if they showed exceptional courage in risking their own safety or life to save a person from injury or death.

Sarbi died of a brain cancer on 27 March 2015 at the age of 12 years. Sarbi has a dog park located at Warner, Queensland named in her honour. In October 2016 Sarbi’s preserved body was unveiled as part of a permanent exhibition at the Australian War Memorial.

Special Operations Combat Assault Dog SO 009, Afghanistan, Belgian Malinois

Devil was born in April 2009 and was raised and trained by a civilian breeder until 2010. He was trialled in mid-late 2010 and posted to the Special Air Services Regiment. He was deployed to Afghanistan in February 2011 with Special Operations Task Group 15 with his first handler Corporal Mark Donaldson, Victoria Cross recipient.

His second deployment to Afghanistan was in February 2012. He was killed in action on the 2nd July 2012 when fire fight ensued between the Task Group Patrol and insurgents. Devil was targeted by an insurgent at close range and killed instantly by small-arms fire. Corporal Mark Donaldson said that he developed a very strong bond with Devil. When he was having a bad day his outlook improved just by giving Devil a pat and telling him his thoughts, or tickling him behind the ear. He also said that on numerous occasions Devil had saved his life and the lives of many others.

After Devil’s death the Commanding Officer said that “The loss of Devil had a big impact on the task group. Personnel, who worked closely with him, have formed extremely close bonds so his death has affected them. He was a much loved member of the task group and would be sorely missed.”

Devil’s body was repatriated back to Australia. Devil is remembered at the Two Wells RSL commemorative park for those who died serving in Afghanistan.

Two Wells RSL, Old Port Wakefield Road, Two Wells, South Australia

RAAF Military Working Dog MWD1938, RAAF Base Edinburgh, Belgian Malinois

Faith was born on 27 August 2006 and was trained as a Military Working Dog. Military working dogs and their handlers are responsible for providing security, crime prevention patrols, emergency response and intruder detection, both on RAAF Bases and in deployed locations around the world.

Faith was teamed with LAC/W Kain (formerly LAC/W Barklem) from August 2009 until September 2012 at RAAF Base Darwin. LAC/W Kain was her only dedicated handler. From September 2012, Faith was a pool dog in Darwin. Faith was transferred to RAAF Base Edinburgh where she continued her duties. Faith passed away on 1 October 2015 at the age of 9 years and 3 months.

There was a eulogy to MWD Faith as part of a ceremony on 30 November 2015 at No 3 Security Force Squadron Military Working Dog (MWD) Section, RAAF Base Edinburgh. Faith’s ceremony included the reading of a letter from her original handler, LAC/W Kain, the planting of a memorial rose bush and the awarding of the Canine Service Medal for her Service.

Faith was never deployed to a war zone, but she represents the many highly trained Defence Force dogs that served Australia as a military working dog.

Our thanks to Anne Johnson for allowing us to republish content from her "Remembering War Dog" Exhibition Commemorative Booklet. Anne's work can be seen at the Portland Library, 32 Bentinck Street, Portland, Victoria until 31 May 2017.

Main Photo: This painting represents the theme of the exhibition ‘Remembering War Dogs’ and was inspired by the ‘Lest We Forget’ flag of the WWI/WWII RAF British Army Royal Navy. The dog breeds silhouetted are the Airedale and Belgian Malinois (common breed trained by Australia in current times). The Flanders poppy has long been a part of Remembrance Day, the ritual that marks the Armistice of 11th November 1918, and is also increasingly being used as part of Anzac.
References: "Remembering War Dog" Exhibition by artist Anne Johnson (dogsbyannejohnson.com.au); Australian Defence Force Trackers and War Dogs Association Inc (aussietrackers.org); Burke D & Small M, 2009, Seek! An illustrated and pictorial tribute to Australia’s tracker dogs in the Vietnam War, ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland) Inc., Apsley, Queensland, Australia (anzacday.org.au); Cummuns, B, 2003, Colonel Richardson’s Airedales. - The Making of the British War Dog School 1900-1918, Detselig Enterprises Ltd, Alberta, Canada; Donaldson, M (VC), 2013, The Crossroad, McMillan, Sydney, Australia; Haran, P, 2000, Trackers - The Untold Story of the Australian Dogs of War, New Holland Publishers Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia; Lee, S, 2013, Saving Private Sarbi - The true story of Australia’s canine war hero, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, Australia; Perry, R, 2013, Horrie the War Dog - The story of Australia’s most famous dog. Allen and Unwin, Sydney, Australia; Australian War Memorial.
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