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Dogs of war

In spring 1916, General Sir Tom Bridges won something unusual in a Red Cross Raffle in Paris - a lion. It was the ideal mascot for the Brits. Named Poilu, the increasingly big cat became mascot of the 18th division and was allowed to roam at HQ. It outlived WWI by 17 years.

Many Allied contingents took on pets to boost morale during WWI. A South African detachment brought a Springbok to the Somme, a Canadian army veterinarian took a black bear to Salisbury Plain and the Australians took so many wallabies to Portsmouth they needed their own paddock.

The Kiwis could hardly take their avian namesakes to the frontlines. Instead, dogs were given the honour of boosting the morale of NZEF troops.

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HMS New Zealand received for its maiden voyage the gift of a bulldog named after Pelorus Jack. Pelorus Jack was "a bull pup of honest parentage, clean habits, and moral tendencies".

The dog's will stated "no dachshund or other dog of Teutonic extraction" could replace him. A successor was sought after the first Pelorus Jack fell down the ship's funnel and was "Discharged Dead" in April 1916.

The successor's fate was similarly strange. The next Pelorus Jack survived the Battle of Jutland below deck, was presented with promotions and gold collar and was brought back to New Zealand with fanfare. Admiral Jellicoe gave Pelorus Jack II to Auckland City Council and the dog was redeployed to HMS Renown.

However, the 4-year-old "able seadog" died suddenly in April 1920 while being taken out for a waddle. The dog had only just been released from six months of quarantine.

Bulldogs were attached to deployments including Auckland Third Infantry, Mounted Infantry and North Auckland Regiment.

Caesar the Anzac Dog, whose collar is held at Auckland Museum, has a Patricia Stroud book written in his honour (Stroud's great uncle was an owner of the dog). Caesar led a Queen St parade before his battalion left for the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Brave Caesar was on the front line - he was a trained rescue dog and helped stretcher-bearers find the wounded at night when lanterns could get the rescuers killed. When Caesar found a wounded soldier, he was trained to look for an identifying feature such as a coat, hat or helmet and to carry this back to a handler.

Caesar was reported killed after losing both eyes in November 1917, but memorialised as a brave dog who did his duty "unconsciously, perhaps, but with all his heart".

Auckland War Memorial Museum commemorates animals including Moses the donkey mascot, and stores the collars of Pelorus Jack as well as "Ceasar" (sic) the Anzac Dog.

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