Historical WWI Dogs in Salonika

Men of the 22nd Divisional Ammunition Column RFA, with their unit mascot 'Ginger', watch other members of their unit wrestling on horseback during a horse show outside Salonika, 20th Febrauary 1916. © IWM (Q 31765)
Men of the 22nd Divisional Ammunition Column RFA, with their unit mascot ‘Ginger’, watch other members of their unit wrestling on horseback during a horse show outside Salonika, 20th Febrauary 1916. © IWM (Q 31765)

In honour of National Dog Day, which is taking twitter by storm (at least among ‘twitterstorians’ who have been posting nice pictures of historical dogs all day), here’s my favourite WWI Balkan dog story from the IWM archives:

In his 1970 memoir, C R Hennessey recalled how he and his regiment had acquired a mascot, a small black and white terrier trotting along side their march, “so we dubbed him “Mick” and took him on the strength of the Platoon for rations and billeting.”

There is no doubt that one can cope with things under very adverse conditions when one has the old familiar faces about him. Which thought reminded me that we hadn’t seen anything of our terrier “Mick” since the pervious afternoon. It seemed to us that he couldn’t have survived the cold and wet, but to our great surprise and delight he suddenly appeared with his tail erect, and looking the perkiest member of “C” Company. We learned that Will’s groom, one Cpl. Parker, had taken pity on him and carried him on his saddle under cover of his ground sheet… we thought that Mick, being only a civilian as you might say, was entitled to more comfortable quarters than the Army could provide at this time. So we hunted around and managed to find him a very good home at the neighbouring base camp where, in a Q.M.Stores, his future comfort would be assured.

C R Hennessey, “Papers,” IWM 03/31/1, 132,141.

It makes a better story

My mother, on her deathbed, was pressed by her sister to admit that she had, on occasion, potentially, one might say, exaggerated a little bit. Her answer:

“Of course I exaggerated. It makes a better story.”

Everything I learned as a child I now call into question. It took me years — years — to realise that popping bubble wrap does not, in fact, release toxins into the environment. My mom just wanted to save the bubble wrap to reuse. Fair enough.

Did the cat of my pioneer ancestors really experience immaculate conception after having walked across the plains and found herself the sole cat in Utah? Did she really burrow a tunnel through the snow to carry her kittens, one by one, from the barn into the warm kitchen, from whence each kitten later sold for the price of a horse?

How to get to the bottom of it? No wonder I became a historian.

Tonks and Wrigley

My cats, neither immaculately conceived nor pioneers.