The Trained War Dogs Of The French Army | 100 Years Ago

in #history7 years ago (edited)

100 Years ago the newspaper "Celina Democrat" wrote about trained war dogs who had several important positions in the French Army.

For example they were used to save wounded soldiers or to inform about dangerous hidden enemies. Many of this examples and stories have been collected in this interesting article:

Trained animals of the French army discover the wounded and even capture German dogs as prisoners. Many of them have been given great military honors.

The dogs of the French army are a force to be reckoned with. They are a really necessary cog in the big army machine. They have distinguished themselves in Argonne, on the Somme, on the Yser, in the Vosges. They have contributed appreciably to divers local successes. They have saved the lives of thousands of soldiers by their Intelligence and devotion, by their courage and address. They have given their limbs, they have given their health, they have given their lives. They have been cited on the rosters of their companies, their battalions, their regiments.

They have been decorated. Their virtues have been celebrated by the cinema, by the newspapers and Illustrated magazines and by the novel. Festivals have been held for the benefit of their hospitals and convalescent homes. Their delegates were enthusiastically cheered at the Palace of the Trocadero by an audience of over 6.000 persons (Including many wounded soldiers from the military hospitals) on the occasion of the last annual meeting of the S. P. A. (Societe Protectrice des Animaux, corresponding to our S. I. C. A.). And a committee has been formed (at the Instigation of their two-footed comrades-in-arms) for the erection of a monument in their honor.

Saviors of the Wounded.

At the moment of the mobilization, 150 dogs, specially trained to rescue the wounded, were put at the disposition of the sanitary department of the Army of the Societe Nationnae du Chien Sanitaire. After a short stay at Longchamp, they were sent to the front, where they conducted themselves, on the whole, exceedingly well. "Pic" was brought down by a German bullet in Argonne. "Toby," alias "Crapouillot," died from a shell wound received at Vie-sur-Tourbe. "Kaiser","Kronprinz" and "Francois-Joseph", names given in derision, because offancied resemblance to the sovereigns of the adversaries served zealously and fell upon the field of honor. In 1915, mainly on the Initiative of the S. P. A. and the Anti-Vivisection league, some three hundred more thoroughly trained dogs were turned over to the sanitary department, and now not hundreds but thousands are succoring the wounded between Nieuport and Alsace. 

"Prince," a superb Alsatian wolf, the first dog to have his coat dyed in the interests of invisibility, and still in the service, saved five wounded men in a single day at Vauquois. "Pax," blind and paralyzed and "Invalided" in due form because of these Infirmities contracted in the service, has the rescue of more than two hundred wounded to his credit. On the other hand. "Cadet," efficient singly, but too Ill-tempered for team work, has developed a specialty altogether his own, that of "gathering in" the dogs of the enemy. When "Cadet" spies a Boche dog, he pounces upon him, masters him, grips him by the tar and brings him to the trench as prisoner.

The "sanitary dog" scours the battlefield in quest of the wounded. When he discovers a suffering soldier he falls back on the brancardier to whom he is attached and makes plain by his attitude that his services are needed. At the outset he was taught to fetch to the brancardier a kepi or a handkerchief. But the handkerchief of the soldier is very apt to be in a tightly-buttoned pocket and he may have lost his kepi. Furthermore the kepi has been replaced largely by the heavy helmet, and it is next to Impossible for a dog to remove the latter, when it is held on by a chin-strap, as it almost always is. So it has become customary to have the dog fetch any object whatever (pipe, handkerchief, helmet, briquet, tobacco pouch, car tridge box. bit of uniform), save a bandage, which he is taught to scrupulously respect.

Surprising Canine Versatility.

The "sanitary dogs," having been first in the field, thanks to the antebellum preparedness efforts of the Soclete Nationnle du Chien Sanitaire, and having long been the most numerous, have naturally attracted the most attention; but all the four-footed pollus are not rescuers of the wounded, Latterly, a goodly number have been trained for functions which bring them into closer relations with the actual combatants than with the disabled, and a special canine military service has been organized by ministerial decree. Dogs now serve as sentinels, as scouts, as dispatch bearers, and as revictuallers.

They are taught to wait patiently in solitary spots; to pay no attention to the most deafening detonations; to wear a gas-mask; to growl (without barking) at the slightest suspicious approach; to move back nnd forth between widely separated points without being tempted by irrelevant appeals enroute or being disconcerted by the obliteration of landmarks due to the tramping or churning of the earth. "I use only French dogs," says a dog-training specialist, "for a very simple reason that renders all other reasons, namely, that they are the best shepherd dogs of La Beauce and of the Pyrenees, enterprising and hardy, excellent pupils, on condition that you specialize them, that you demand of them only what they have to give, that you do not exact from them, as from the modern-style ladies' maid, housekeeping, piano-playing, sewing, ironing, and the giving of English lessons.

The efficiency of the war dog depends upon two things, obedience and scent. Do not expect from the best dog miracles of well-nigh human intuition. If you do, you will be deceived. Refuse to believe that a war dog will learn to send telephone messages by growling before a telephone (as has been reported and even printed), or that he will run to ring the alarm bell at the approach of asphyxiating gas."

Four-Footed Sentinels.

"Fidele," a big yellow mastiff, who mounted guard regularly before the porthole of a trench on the Yser, was shot in the head. He was evacuated to a dog hospital. The surgeons succeeded to extracting the bullet (which his master now wears as a charm on his watch-chain), and, after a proper period of convalescence, he joyously resumed his service at the front. "Lion" sentinel with the th regiment of Colonial infantry, signalled the proximity of a strong German patrol whose mission it was to capture a post some two hundred yards in advance of the French lines. His alarm permitted the opening of a deadly infantry and artillery fire which repulsed and decimated the patrol. Several prisoners were taken, who declared that they would certainly have succeeded in their enterprise had it not been for the warning given by the dog.

The Official Bulletin of July 19, 1910, contained this sentence: "An attack directed by the enemy upon our out posts in the region of Raschendael (Belgium) was checked by our fire." The failure of this raid was due to a dog named "Fox." He was placed upon the roll of honor of his regiment with this mention:

"Fox, Serie F4, matricule 221 of the Kennel A, foiled an attempt of the Germans to raid our first-line trenches. Profiting by a dark night and a gale of wind, the enemy had succeeded in upproachlng our barbed-wire barriers without being seen or heard by the sentinels. The dog Fox of the Nineteenth company of the -th regiment of Infantry, who was mounting guard at the extremity of the trench, alarmed the post twice and permitted us to receive the enemy with a shower of grenades. Thanks to Fox's alarm, the surprise resulted in a complete fiasco." "Loustic" had no sooner familiarized himself with the trenches of the Infantry than he made a discover of the first Importance. While on watch duty with his master he suddenly obliqued to the right and gave unmistakable signs of perturbation.

"There's something over yonder," said the master to his comrades. "Nonsense! Your pup's dreaming." "But I tell you that If none of our men are over there at the right, there are Boches there." The dog is led in the opposite direction to test him. He runs back to his point of observation and continues to manifest the same disquieting symptoms. "It may be that he smells a Boche outpost," observed his master. The men, Impressed at last, communicate the observation to the officer in command. "X-- says that his dog 'Loustic' has discovered a Boche outpost." "The one we are after?" "Yes." "That would be extraordinary indeed." The captain is skeptical; nevertheless he orders several rockets to be setoff. And there, sure enough, in the direction the dog so obstinately indicated, pop up the heads of three superb Bodies, who fancied themselves secure against discovery. That passes me," murmured the captain. "In 20O minutes this cur has discovered a post we have been hunting two months for."

Four-Footed Scouts.

In a northern sector, between the French and German trendies, fully 200 yards from the former and not more than 20 yards from the latter, was a farmhouse which was suspected concealing machine guns and an observation post, despite the fact that no signs of life were visible. The poilus in one of the French trenches lay their heads together: "It's absolutely necessary to know what there is in that house." "You're right. But It's no easy matter. We shall surely be shot If we go near it." "But if it is empty?" "That would be a lark. We'll find out. We'll take Tapillon' along with us." And one dark night four men, accompanied by Papillon, set forth. They advanced by bound?, with infinite precaution, making ten-minute halts between the bounds and unrolling a telephone wire as they progressed. When they were close to the house, they halted for three-quarters of an hour, in order to give Papillon time to familiarize himself with the premises and to reconnoiter them thoroughly.

He displayed no signs of agitution save when he was turned toward the trenches of the enemy. The house was certainly empty. The party entered and made a thorough inspection. They returned under Papillon's guidance several times, making daylight observations which rendered possible a successful attack. And Papillon was cited on the roll of honor of the battalion. In the spy-infected Vosges the scouting dogs have been particularly useful in detecting the civilian traitors who are In the habit of observing the movements of the troops from behind the forest trees. The scout "Nestor," besides rendering numerous services of this sort in the region, also distinguished himself particularly at Bandkopf by fulling back upon a patrol, in advance of which he was reconnoitering and announcing in unmistakable language a totally unsuspected menace of the enemy.


 Preview Image: Pixabay | Text and Illustration: Source | In the USA, anything published in and before 1922 is not protected under copyright. No permission is needed to use it.  

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Salutes to all dogs that serve in wars! from historical to modern!

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