The 1939-45 War and After

When war was declared, in the ensuing panic and fear of insurmountable difficulties to come, vast numbers of dogs were destroyed. The greatest fear was of terrible food shortages and it was felt better to destroy the dogs early on than not be able to feed them later. Many kennels had all or most of their dogs destroyed. Some determined to soldier on and keep them going. Among these were the Sulhamstead kennel of Florence Nagle and the Ouborough kennel of James and Patsy Rank, both of which had been going since the mid-1920s, but also the recently formed Boroughbury kennel of Elsie James. Sheelah Seale's Ballykelly kennel also continued, and others kept going with reduced numbers.

The Coolafin kennels kept going, being run by Delphis and Christopher Gardner, since Phyllis Gardner, who started the kennel, had died on February 16th, 1939. They lived through the war at the family home in Maidenhead - shown in the photograph below. Sheelah Seale, also shown in the photograph, whose first hound came from the Coolafin kennel, lived near Eastbourne, East Sussex when the war started but moved several times during the war to various areas of Sussex before going to South Devon.

 Boroughbury and Coolafin
 Facing camera: Sheelah Seale, Christopher Gardner, Delphis Gardner

Breeding was severely curtailed and many hounds were lost through disease and, as the War continued, through age and infirmity. The Ouborough kennel tragically lost three quarters of their dogs (both Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds) to hardpad brought in by a mascot of the Royal Air Force, which had set up a barrage balloon station in the grounds.

1940 saw very little breeding and 1941 almost nothing, but after that several litters were born - at Mrs. Wager's Develin; Gardner's Coolafin, Noel Nichols's Bradfield, and Mrs. Fitz-Gibbons's Artel, as well as those kennels previously mentioned. Presumably it was by then seen that shortages were not as great as had been feared, even though getting food for the dogs was never easy. They were fed whatever meat could be obtained from abattoirs, plus whatever could be found in other ways. Potatoes formed the basis of many hounds' diets, which sadly proved fatal for one of the Sulhamstead hounds - Ch. Fella - which choked on a piece of potato.

But the breed continued, even though in much lesser numbers. It was during this period that Mr. J. B. Waldy, one of the very early breeders, died and, sadly, his collection of photographs and other breed memorabilia, much of which was only to be found in his collection, was lost. This is why all we have today of the very earliest hounds is from drawings done by Phyllis Gardner from Mr. Waldy's photographs.

The following article was printed in The Dog World Annual, 1942.




hound with four bandaged paws  Nothing is said in the article about this hound, or what had happened to him to require all four paws bandaging 
  He endured, was rescued and aided, and lives still in devotion  

Another year has passed - painfully, bewilderingly. A year of war, blood, death and destruction, ceaseless energy, sweat and tears, yet of unflagging preparation and determination to fight on to save our liberty and the liberty of all people everywhere. If one thing above all others stands pinnacled against the chequered background of the year, it is Courage - the unflinching Courage of the peoples domiciled on the battlefield of Britain. Nowhere, perhaps, is that courage more discernible than amongst the gallant company of men and women who are proud to possess and to breed dogs for Britain. To fight, to work, to endure, and in the fleeting moments of their leisure to maintain their love for their dogs.

We venture to suggest that the loyalty and enthusiasm so vividly displayed in the pages which follow, themselves amplify that courage and reveal unmistakably the absolute indestructibility of British determination.

War has crowded our days. Though in recent months the torrential rain of fire and whistling death has quietened to light and intermittent shower, the year, nevertheless, has witnessed colossal tragedy. Death has stalked through city street and sped blindly through the blossoming country lane. Homes, in a thundering twinkling of an eye, have crumbled to a dust. Buildings that were almost a trust have exposed a ghostly skeleton through a fury of flame, finally to crash in shameless disintegration. Families and friends have become involved in the spate of war to meet no more in this strange blood-drunk, tragic world. Pets, who mean so much to the Britisher, have in many instances shared their fate.

Yet Britain carries on. Firm in faith, strong to face whatsoever from the skies may fall, the people of Britain have stood resolute in spirit and in deed. There is no moaning, no weariness, no fear. Just that quiet, amazing courage which we see exemplified everywhere. Giving all to a cause that is just, and having done so, maintaining as best they can that which in days of peace was their joy.

As the white, towering cliffs of Britain stand faultless guard against the sea, so the indomitable courage of the ordinary civilian population of Britain, who go quietly about their business, is proving a powerful weapon against the enemy in the sky.

It is difficult, perhaps, for those who carry not the experience of attack from the air, fully to realise its portent…..A black and sullen night. Strange, inhuman, expectant calm, broken, faintly at first, by a low, whirring sound which quickly rises to a thunderous roar. Guns speak in a shattering, deafening chorus and the heavens seem to rock in agony. Suddenly, and above all the din, a crescendo of screams….louder… louder….nearer…..nearer - a terrific flash - unthinkable, dispossessing c----rump, a terrifying rush of ghostly power that threatens to suck life from the body - a pause - then the shattering, tearing, rumbling roar as buildings are disintegrated. And all within a split second of time.

That has been the experience of Britishers in many parts of our island home, yet those who have risen dazed from the dust of havoc, have just shaken their heads like punch-drunk boxers, and gone again about their national and civilian business, unmoved before an avalanche of terror.

Courage - plain, unheralded courage. That same courage has operated throughout British dogdom. In the face of many tragedies, many set-backs, the dog lovers of Britain have stood solidly by their cause. Few there are who in some way are not actively aiding the war effort. Many have donned uniform and through the long and sometimes tragic hours give heroic service. Others are actively engaged in the Civil Defence Services, others again in munitions or giving valiantly to the Home Front; but one and all have clung with the recognised British tenacity to their dogs.

The day of hysterical slaughter has gone, never to return. It was but a mistaken, transient phase. To-day the major strains of dogs which in the past have brought fame to Britain in many parts of the world are as strong in character, if not in number, as they were when calamity was forced upon the world.

Feeding difficulties - and, thanks to wise and prudent national organisation this never became really critical - have been tackled and overcome with amazing resource, and the health of the pedigree dogs of Britain is in no way impaired.

The demand for dogs, indeed, has grown with an almost unbelievable rapidity. His devotion, friendship and loyalty have won hearts in many new places - even where the fight grows the hottest. One reason for that, perhaps, is the fact that the reaction of the dog to bombing attack, in the main, is one of unwavering unconcern, trust and desire to protect. He has revealed uncanny sense which oft-times has given pre-warning of danger. Many, of course, have paid the supreme sacrifice, but they have paid it willingly, and in their extremity poured out their devotion.

The War Office has recognised the value of the dog. Schools of instruction have been opened where dogs, loaned to the country by her dog lovers, are being trained to join the Army. The response to the appeal for such dogs was instantaneous, and the prospects are that in due course the dogs of Britain will play a valuable part in the battle line. And they will do it nobly.

So far as shows are concerned, with the exception of a prodigious open show in the cause of charity, at Skipton, and several specialist events, the majority of shows held have been members' exhibitions, and these have been held all over the British Isles. The entries received reveal the strength and the desire of British Dog Fancy. In the main shows have been organised for some War Fund and large sums have been raised. Many canine societies have invested their standing funds in War Bonds; one, at least, interest free.

The Kennel Club has cancelled the pulse of dogdom wisely and well. Their dictum as to breeding and to shows has been rigidly adhered to. Mr. A. Croxton Smith, O.B.E., the chairman, who is also undertaking the duties of the secretary on active service, has performed his onerous duties with distinguished success.

Several famous men whom the Dog Fancy can ill afford to lose, have found their long and quiet rest, including Mr. Chris Houlker, known the world over as an all-round judge, and Mr. Geo. Howlett, a beloved member of the Kennel Club, and keen lover of the dog. Some have died in the fight; we remember them all and cherish the memory.

The well-run and humanitarian organisations such as the R.S.P.C.A. and the P.D.S.A. (People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) have continued their grand work of rescue, care and cure of war-torn and invalid dogs. Here is a glimpse of the work carried on. P.D.S.A. Animal Rescue Squads were fully prepared when war began. Previously the Society had operated a fleet of motor caravan dispensaries which were, in effect, Mobile Surgeries for the treatment of sick and injured animals. It was these vehicles which were called in from their peace-time work and prepared, with their crews, to face the blitz.

The plan for their operation was a simple one. Caravans with specially trained personnel - all volunteers - were centred at the principal cities where air raids were likely to take place. Contact was made with the A.R.P. authorities and with the Police, and the new service was quickly welcomed. It will easily be understood that, to harassed Wardens, Police, Firemen, and Demolition Squads, the appearance of men specially trained and equipped to deal with animals was a God-send.

With human-beings in need, A.R.P. workers could not turn aside for animals. The P.D.S.A. could, and did, and when these facts were given me more than 82,000 creatures had been saved by the P.D.S.A. Rescue Squads after heavy air raids. In London alone, at the height of the attacks, more than 7,000 creatures were saved in a single week.

It is their proud slogan that they "Go Where the Bombs Fall" and no call for help is ever left unheeded. Rescue workers have gone to cellars made perilous by half-collapsed houses above them; they have dug in ruins enough to excavate dangerous looking tunnels down which they have crept to rescue an injured or imprisoned animal. They have entered burning stables where terrified horses constituted of themselves an acute danger; and they have mounted dizzy staircases, against the advice of the Police, in order to reach some cat or caged bird which had been left shut in a cupboard by some thoughtless owner.

Perhaps the most "picturesque" of the rescue workers is Beauty, a Fox Terrier belonging to the driver of one of the Rescue Squads. Beauty goes everywhere with her master, and as the search begins for buried animals, she runs sniffing all over the ruins. Her sharp senses will often detect the presence of a dog or cat in the midst of the debris and she stands on the spot "pointing" and giving off a volume of barks until somebody starts digging. Beauty has more than twenty rescues to her credit, and some of them even include cats!

Other animal-aiding societies have rendered similar and prodigious service.

In many ways dogs themselves have given valiant service to humanity's cause. They have been instrumental in raising money for war charities. Our dogs are "doing their bit."

So the year with all its tribulations draws to its close. Not with a spirit of gloom or even of anxiety; just a quiet determination to achieve that for which everyone has staked his or her life - Liberty and the safety of our homes, our ever-smiling land. To save our friends - our pets. So long as the courage I have revealed remains - and that courage is as unchangeable as the cause for which we fight - so long will Britain live, and liberty, with us and with our liberty-loving friends in the lands across the sea. So long, too, will the people of Britain continue to love and to breed good dogs. From out that courage comes in ceaseless flood the love we hold for liberty.

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Updated 9/5/2015