Although it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a domestic animal, dogs have contributed bravely on the front lines. Military dogs in World War One were positioned in a variety of roles, depending on their size, intelligence and training. During World War I, their roles fell into the categories of sentry, scout, casualty, ratters and mascot dogs. Sentry dogs were trained to give a warning signal such as a growl, bark or snarl to indicate when an unknown or suspicious presence was in the area. Scout dogs were highly trained to work with soldiers on foot patrolling the terrain ahead of them. These dogs were useful to the military because they could detect an enemy scent up to 1000 yards away. Instead of barking and drawing attention to their squad, the dog would raise its hairs and point its tail, which indicated that the enemy was trespassing upon the terrain.
Casualty dogs were vital in World War One. These dogs were skilled at finding the wounded and dying on battlefields and were equipped with medical supplies to aid those suffering. The soldiers who could help themselves would tend to their own wounds, while other seriously wounded soldiers would seek the company of a casualty dog to wait with them whilst they died. Messenger dogs were used to deliver messages and proved to be as reliable as soldiers. The complexities of trench warfare meant that communication were always a problem or destroyed. Field communication systems were crude and there was always the possibility that vital messages from the front would never get back to headquarters or vice versa. Messenger dogs could also be equipped with a harness that held carrier pigeons. Trash disposal was almost impossible in the trenches and attracted rats. Ratters were used to hunt down the rats and prevent them from eating the soldier’s rations.
Even though mascot dogs were cute and cuddly they also had another major role to play on the Western Front. For the men trapped in the horrors of trench warfare, a dog in the trenches was a psychological comfort. Dogs took away the horrors they lived through, even if it was only for a short time. Most men had never been in battle before and were left traumatized by everything they saw. A companion in the trenches offered a mental ease and a sort of normalness that they hadn’t felt since they left home. The roles of dogs were considered so important that in the early months of 1917 the War Office formed the War Dog School of Instruction in Hampshire to train them. By 1918, it was estimated that Germany had employed 30,000 dogs while Britain, France and Belgian used over 20,000.
Post by Arvin Ramdas