Honouring Our Canine Military Heroes
Photos courtesy of NMWDM (UK) and Rob Tysall
As we honour and remember all those brave men and women who have served in the Armed Services, lets also remember our canine military heroes too. Ann Evans reports.
A monument to honour all the UK’s Military working dogs from World War I through to the present day and beyond, is well underway, but more donations are needed to see it come to fruition.
The National Military Working Dogs Memorial charity, known as NMWDM (UK), was established in 2017 and officially launched at Crufts in 2018. So far, around half of the £150,000 needed for the permanent public memorial to be created has been raised.
The memorial will represent all branches of the UK’s Armed Forces whose Military working dogs have bravely served their country in both world wars and subsequent conflicts in Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other trouble spots around the world.
The monument will be in a compass shape with four bronze statues of military dogs at the four points, representing all branches of the military – the Military Mascots, the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force Police. Four Hero Dogs have been specially selected to represent each sector.
These four amazing dogs have each served their country in different ways, saving thousands of lives in the process. Buster, an English Springer Spaniel representing the Military Mascots, is the dog who inspired Emma Ward of Holywell, North Wales to start the ball rolling in creating this monument in honour of these amazing dogs.
Emma, who with her parents have a pet cemetery in North Wales, began the appeal after hearing about the peaceful passing of Buster, a Royal Air Force Police Arms and Explosives Search Dog. Buster had completed five tours of duty in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with his handler, Flight Sergeant Michael “Will” Barrow.
With Buster representing the Military Mascots, he would work ahead of the ground troops in war torn countries clearing a safe passage, detecting weapons, hidden explosives and deadly IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). During his career Buster is credited with saving a thousand lives, both military and civilian. His courage and tireless work earned him medals and honours. He was the last military dog to leave Iraq. Back home he became the RAF Police Mascot – a lifetime honour, proudly undertaking his duties until he passed peacefully in 2015.
Emma said, “I heard about Buster’s passing on social media and I posted the story. There was an avalanche of ‘likes’ and we were inundated with requests to do something for Buster. I learned about all the roles dogs had played in the theatres of war and knew they deserved to be honoured in some way.”
Emma’s parents, Teresa and John Ward, gifted land for a memorial, unpaid trustees were encouraged to come on board, and plans were drawn up for the memorial. Acclaimed artist Andy Edwards was commissioned to sculpt the four bronze dog statues.
Andy of Stoke-on-Trent said, “I am beyond delighted to have been chosen by the trustees to sculpt the bronzes for the National Military Working Dogs Memorial. It is certainly an honour to be working with such dedicated people towards such a deserving cause. I hope to capture the spirit and energy of these incredible brave animals in my sculptures and seeing them incorporated in this new national monument which will be seen and appreciated by so many visitors in the future. This is a unique initiative in recognising the remarkable dogs who have served and in numerous cases given their lives, saving, rescuing and protecting the lives of so many alongside our military personnel over the last 100 years.”
Springer Spaniel Theo, an Arms and Explosives Search dog represents the British Army. Theo was gifted to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and became an incredibly successful Arms and Explosives Search dog. His handler was Lance Corporal Liam Tasker – they bonded immediately. They were assigned to several Companies within 2 Para, including the Small Strike teams, meaning daily patrols over many weeks. Each time Liam and Theo went forward, ahead of the patrol to search for bombs, weapons and IEDs, Theo located everything set in his path. In recognition of his life-saving skills the Parachute Regiment extended their greatest honour to Theo – his own ‘Para Wings’. They declared: “He’s one of us…”
Tragically, on 1 March 2011 – while on patrol with No 2 Company, 1st Battalion Irish Guards Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps 1st Military Working Dog Unit was killed in action in the Helmand Province. Theo was alongside Liam when he fell to a sniper’s bullet and died hours later from a seizure. Some believe Theo died of a broken heart. Theo was awarded a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – on 25 October 2012.
Representing the Royal Navy is Judy, an English Pointer, born in Shanghai in 1937 and gifted to the Royal Navy as a ship’s mascot. She began her Naval career aboard HMS Gnat and then her sister ship, the river gunboat, HMS Grasshopper. By some miracle Judy survived enemy attacks on both ships but in February 1942, as she accompanied the survivors of the Grasshopper on their daring trek to safety she was taken prisoner and began a three-year sentence as a Japanese Prisoner of War in the steaming jungles of Sumatra. Here she met Leading Aircraftsman Frank Williams who became her master and life-long companion. Her incredible story is on the NMWDM website or read Judy – A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis.
In May 1946, Judy was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal – the animal’s Victoria cross. Her citation reads: “For magnificent courage and endurance in Japanese prison camps, which helped to maintain morale among her fellow prisoners and also saving many lives through her intelligence and watchfulness.”
Representing the Royal Air Force Police is Lucky, who was one of four German Shepherds selected by the Royal Air Force Police dog unit for special duties during the Malaya Campaign, (1948-1960). The dogs underwent rigorous training to form an elite anti-terrorist tracker dog team capable of locating and exposing insurgents hiding out in the Malaya jungle. Lucky and the other Air Dogs were attached to Malay Police and several British Army regiments during their time in Malaya including the Coldstream Guards, 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Guards and the Gurkhas. As a unit the dogs were responsible for the capture of hundreds of communist terrorists.
Sadly, the three other dogs, Jasper, Bobbie and Lassie all lost their lives in the line of duty and only Lucky survived to continue his RAF Police career after his duties in Malaya were completed. Lucky’s handler, RAF Police veteran Corporal Bevel Austin Stapleton credited his dog with saving his life many times during the time they served together. In recognition of his service and life-saving action in conflict, Lucky was awarded a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – on 6 February 2007.
Donate or find out more.
If you would like to support the National Military Working Dogs Memorial charity, or maybe become a patron, please visit their website, where you can read the full stories of these courageous Hero Dogs and much more. Please go to: www.nmwdm.org.uk