Remembering the War Dog school at Shoeburyness
You’ve probably heard of ‘War Horse’ the famous West End play, but the military also used dogs in the Great War and a special school to train them was set up at the Shoeburyness ‘New Ranges’ in 1917 by Lt-Col E. H. Richardson. This followed successful trial use of Airedale Terriers ‘Wolf’ and ‘Prince’.
The Dogs were trained as messengers, sentries and for patrolling and up to 48 dogs and 16 handlers were based in kennels along the front lines.
Dogs were initially sourced from Battersea Home for Lost Dogs but later the public were asked to ‘volunteer’ their pets with the promise they would be well fed.
The ‘War Dog School’ used the existing gunnery ranges at Shoeburyness to accustom the dogs to trenches and the noise of war, and trained them with food to run towards rifle fire.
They could cover 3 miles in 20 minutes and their nimbleness, speed and size meant that injuries during the bombardments were generally avoided, although many were injured or killed in action.
The photo below shows training in progress
Two further photo’s show dogs in service. The first shows how a pouch was used to carry the vital communications and the second shows a ‘dog barracks’. As can be seen a great variety of breeds were used.
The use of dogs in war, and of course Policing, continues to this day, but now the roles are for search and rescue, explosives detection and guard duties. You may often see our British Transport Police colleagues out and about at stations with their dogs.