From the stacks - Dogs in the military

Often forgotten and rarely recognised, are our four-legged canine diggers, who have served and suffered alongside Australian soldiers.

From the Boer War (1899-1902) through to more recent conflicts in Vietnam and Afghanistan, the values of instinctive loyalty, courage, intelligence and trainability have been highly regarded by our armed forces. 

To their handlers, our canine diggers are a source of unconditional and uncomplaining friendship, mateship and relief from the daily horrors and stresses of conflict - the only price they ask is a pat and a smile. When far from home, the powerful bonds formed between dogs and their handlers are valuable in helping to maintain a sense of humanity.

Among many duties in the First and Second World War, our enlisted mates have helped carry messages through the trenches, laid telephone wire and carried ammunition and medical supplies. German Shepherds were given sentry duties, watching over valuable military equipment. 

In Vietnam, the Australian Task Force began to appreciate their natural attributes, including a keen sense of smell. Dogs were included in combat tracker teams, searching for wounded soldiers and detecting enemy mines and positions.

In more recent conflicts, explosive detection dogs have saved countless Australian soldiers and Afghanistan civilians by detecting Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) up to 100 metres away.

Even though dogs have served our country for more than a century, much of their efforts have escaped public attention. Recognition is increasing, mainly thanks to organisations such as the Australian Defence Force Tracker & War Dog Association, who are ensuring that memorials are appearing across Australia.

While we often rightly focus on the human cost of operations, we should never forget the sacrifice and contribution made by man’s best friend.

Military operations - the islands, New Guinea area - Goodenough Island
Military operations - the islands, New Guinea area - Goodenough Island
1943
Digital ID: 
FL1124366
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Australian troops, machine gun section with mascot 'Punch', 1914
About this item: 

Australian troops, machine gun section with mascot 'Punch' on board Berrima, from an album of Photographs Used in the Book "How Australia TookGerman New Guinea: An Illustrated Record of the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force", 1914, by F. S. Burnell State Library of New South Wales, PXA 2165

Australian troops, machine gun section with mascot 'Punch', 1914
1914
Burnell, F. S. (Frederick Spencer)
Digital ID: 
FL9000254
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Ready for a flight over the German lines - a British pilot and observer with their mascot
British and Australian World War I post cards: Ready for a flight over the German lines - a British pilot and observer with their mascot
1914-1918
Digital ID: 
FL1501814
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Alfred William Leslie Ellis - Album of travel photographs and overseas, ca. 1915-1920
Alfred William Leslie Ellis - Album of travel photographs and overseas, ca. 1915-1920
1915-1920
Alfred William Leslie Ellis
Digital ID: 
FL681846
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"Bushie"

Australia’s first official war dog, a black and white collie-cross called “Bushie”, was a mascot of the NSW Bushmen’s Contingent and travelled with them to the Boer War in 1900.

After the war, he was presented as a gift to Queen Victoria shortly before she died, ending his days in the royal kennels at Osborne House.

The Library holds a collection of correspondence and articles from the NSW Bushmen’s Contingent relating to Bushie the dog.

Bushie - Postcard from New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence
About this item: 

Postcard of Bushie, from the New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence relating to Bushie the dog, 1900-1901.

Bushie - Postcard from the New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence
1900-1901
New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent
Digital ID: 
Not yet available
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Bushie - Extract from New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence
About this item: 

Article extract from the New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence relating to Bushie the dog, 1900-1901.

Bushie - Extract from the New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence
1900-1901
New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent
Digital ID: 
Not yet available
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Bushie - Photo from New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence
About this item: 

New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence relating to Bushie the dog, 1900-1901.

Bushie - Photo from the New South Wales Bushmen's Contingent correspondence
1900-1901
Bushmen's Contingent to South African War
Digital ID: 
Not yet available
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 Want to see more? Visit the Library!

A sample of books from the collection ,relating to Dogs in the military.

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