Roger Salmon column

Roger Salmon.
Roger Salmon.

Tributes have taken place this year to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War.

Millions of people lost their lives fighting for king and country but few people realised that dogs are the unsung heroes of the Great War.

It is thought 20,000 dogs contributed to the war effort, often sacrificing their own lives so that soldiers could be spared.

Four legged recruits were trained for a variety of roles such as carrying aid to the wounded, accompanying patrols for the purpose of scenting the enemy, acting as sentinels and carrying messages from the first line of fighting troops to commanding officers at the rear.

Many a bold canine battled on despite suffering injuries, showing immense courage and loyalty to their handlers.

Sentinel dogs were trained to stand quietly on top of the trench alongside their master’s gun barrel and to inform soldiers, without making a noise, if anyone attempted to approach the barbed wire entanglement.

This they did without giving any hint to the approaching enemy that he had been discovered. Reports stated “a watchdog never barks, at the most he will use a low growl to indicate the presence or approach of a hostile force. More often than not the mere pricking of the ears or the attitude of expectancy is sufficient to put his master on his guard”.

The most famous of the dogs that came from Battersea Stray dogs Home was Jack, an Airedale Terrier who was dispatched to send a message calling for reinforcements when his battalion became trapped under enemy fire.

Despite an aggressive bombardment of mortar and shells, Jack navigated his way through the attack and delivered his message. He was struck twice on his journey and died of his wounds when he arrived at the base. However the actions of brave Jack saved many lives.

Some dogs were donated by families while others were recruited from dog’s homes.

Newspapers reported that it was only fitting that owners should know that their dogs had been the means of saving countless lives.

Back in Britain the consequences of war were also being felt and many strays were appearing over London, as people struggled under the privations of rationing.