South African Military History Society


The Society Evening of 9th duly was rather short, due to unforseen circumstances.

Fortunately, members were treated to an unusual, well illustrated talk by Mrs. Lynn Fordred about "The Dogs of War", in this case the canine variety.

Dogs have shared man's fortunes in military campaigns as companions from early times, bolstering morale and being a comforter as well as unit mascot.

In Southern Africa dogs were used during the 2nd Anglo-Boer war as scouts on a few occasions by the British troops.

In 1899 the British Army Veterinary Depot published a classification for the use of dogs in service. Dogs were divided into: guard-, security-, police-, and watch dogs to be employed on mobile or sentry duties. The scouts (trackers came next, with messenger dogs, carriers and searchers (sniffer dogs). The latter were again divided into Red Cross Dogs, casualty detection and ambulance dogs.

The German Army was the first to organize dogs for military purposes, and some were even dispatched to German Southwest to be used as guard dogs warning soldiers of impending attacks during the Herero campaign.

When WW I began, the German Army could make use of 6.000 trained dogs,while the French military had made no serious attempt to train dogs until Dec.1914, and the Belgians and Italians merely used dogs to pull equipment.

The British Army had made no plans to use dogs in wartime and it was only in 1915 that a well known dog breeder and trainer, Major Richardson, was given the task of building a dog school for training messenger dogs.

One of his first successes came in the German SWA campaign when dogs and handlers were sent out to Gen. Botha's forces and performed with disctinction.

On the western front dogs became invaluable, indeed indispensable, in their different roles, especially as messengers since they were three times faster than a human, were a difficult target for snipers and consequently losses were small. The many wounded who were found by red cross dogs in no-man's-land were more than grateful to their canine lifesavers.

When WW II broke out, the British military considered itself well into the mechanical age, disdaining the deployment of dogs. However, they soon discovered that they still needed dogs and a new dog school was established in 1942 to train guard dogs, silent sentries and red cross dogs to search for survivors in bombed out buildings.

Para dogs appeared for the first time. They jumped with their handlers from aircraft, continueing with their jobs once landed.

But the real heroes of WW II were the dogs for detecting mines and other explosives, saving many lives; and they carried on with their duties even after the war, not only in Europe but for instance in Vietnam as well.

To honour deserving dogs the Dickin Medal was created in 1940.

In South Africa an independent dog school was established in 1964 at Bourke's Luck in the Eastern Transvaal. There dogs are trained for patrol, guard, sniffer and tracker duties. They proved a great success during the Angolan border war.

All this proves that dogs and their usefulness will never disappear and it is reassuring to know that the dog will only take one side, the side of his master.

Mr. Avram Pelunsky thanked the speaker for her well researched and charming presentation.

(Lynn Fordred studied art in Johannesburg before joining the Army Media Centre in Windhoek. In 1988 she established the Museum at the Army Gymnasium in Heidelberg and is now the curator. She is married to Cmdt. Ian Fordred, and they have two children.)

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Special Announcements:

Mr. David Millin advises us that the "Battlefield" series (Blood River, Colenso, Majuba etc.) will be screened on S.A.T.V. on Sunday morning at 11 am from 9th August to 27th Sept. (with the exception of 6th Sept.)

From Cape Town: Members Commander W.M. Bisset and Mr. Michael Schoeman are jointly compiling brief biographical notes on ALL South Africans who served in the SA Aviation Corps, Royal F[ying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service or Royal Air Force during WW I. If You are able to assist please pass the information on to Commander Bisset at 7 Dundee Road, Newlands 7700, or Tel. O2l 686 6309.

From Durban: 8th Armoured Division is hosting a reunion on the anniversary of the battle of Arnhem on 17th Sept. 1992 at H.Q. Lords Grounds. The Divisional Sgt.Major, W.O. I Koos Moorcraft, would like all airborne forces who landed at Arnhem to contact him at Tel. 031 3067191 or Ken Gillings at Tel.031 224261 (work).

The Ladysmith Historical Society's Chronological Study Plan, i.e. the Itinerary until Sept. 1992 is available from the Scribe. Any member interested in detail s is asked to kindly contact John Mahncke at (011) 453 63 53.

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Future Meetings:


13th August. Dr. Walter Murton. - The Rhine Cauldron.
An airborne soldier's experience.

10th Sept. Cal. Jack Murray-Wall. - History of Armoured Warfare to 1939.

CAPE TOWN: 13th August. Mr. Stan Lambrick. - The Alabama.
American Civil War Confederate Raider.

10th Sept. The Flying Cheetahs in Korea: 1950-53.
A panel discussion by pilots who took part.

DURBAN: 13th August. Evening outing to visit 8th Armoured Divs. H.Q. at Lords Grounds. Old Fort Road. To be conducted by Brigadier Frank Bestbier SD

10th Sept. Mr. Georg Oram. "A Guest of Mussolini and Hitler". Experience of a POW.

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The Johannesburg-Branch Committee will meet again on 8th Sept. at the Museum.

John Mahncke
(011) 453 63 53

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