Honouring Canine Heroes of War on Anzac Day


As New Zealand prepares to commemorate Anzac Day, a day of remembrance for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought courageously in wars past and present, it’s essential to remember not only the human soldiers but also the four-legged heroes who served alongside them. Among these unsung heroes are the remarkable dogs who played vital roles in supporting their human counterparts during times of conflict.

Throughout history, dogs have proven themselves to be invaluable assets on the battlefield. Their keen senses, unwavering loyalty, and remarkable abilities have saved countless lives and provided comfort to soldiers in the most trying of circumstances. In the annals of New Zealand’s military history, these canine companions have left an indelible mark, their contributions deserving of recognition and reverence. 

Photo credit – Patricia Stroud
Auckland War Memorial Museum

During World War I, dogs served in various capacities, from messengers and sentries to search and rescue specialists. One of the most celebrated canine heroes of the war was Caesar, a bulldog who served with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Caesar’s bravery and dedication were¬† renowned, as he fearlessly accompanied his human comrades into the trenches, delivering messages under fire and boosting morale among the troops.¬†

Photo credit – TopFoto

Similarly, in World War II, dogs continued to play critical roles on the battlefield. From detecting enemy mines to serving as scouts and sentinels, these four-legged warriors served with distinction alongside their human counterparts. One notable example is Judy, a liver and white English pointer who became the only animal to be officially registered as  a Prisoner of War during the conflict. Judy’s remarkable story of survival and resilience, including enduring imprisonment in Japanese POW camps, serves as a testament to the enduring bond between humans and dogs in times of adversity.

In more recent conflicts, including the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military working dogs have remained indispensable assets to New Zealand’s armed forces. Trained in explosives detection, search and rescue, and patrol duties, these highly skilled canines have saved countless lives and prevented untold harm to both military personnel and civilians.

Beyond their contributions on the battlefield, military dogs have also played a crucial role in providing companionship and emotional support to soldiers facing the rigours of war. Their presence has offered solace amid chaos, their unwavering loyalty a source of comfort in  the darkest of times.

As we gather to pay tribute to the heroes of Anzac Day, let us not forget the sacrifices made by the canine companions who stood by their human comrades through thick and thin. Their service and devotion epitomise the spirit of courage, loyalty, and sacrifice that defines the Anzac tradition.

In honouring the memory of these four-legged patriots, we also acknowledge the debt of gratitude we owe to all service animals who have served alongside the men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force. Their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of all who cherish the ideals of freedom, justice, and peace for which they bravely fought.

On this Anzac Day, let us pause to reflect on the enduring bond between humans and dogs, forged in conflict and strengthened by shared sacrifice. 

Lest we forget the canine heroes of war, whose courage and devotion will forever be etched in our history.

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