PRINCE

“PRINCE”

George Simpson’s pet German Shepherd, “Prince” was requisitioned by the Air Ministry.  His service number was 1949 and he worked with the RAF Police until the end of the war.  We believe “Prince” was used on patrol duty outside bases.  After the war, “Prince” was awarded a certificate from Air Commodore O.W. de Putron, Provost Marshal, Chief of Royal Air Force Police in recognition to devotion to duty.  He was returned to the family.

War Horse’s “Joey” and Blackadder’s “Speckled Jim” [Lord Melchett’s favourite pigeon] highlighted animals of war.  Millions of them, particularly horses died and suffered during conflicts.  In the Great War, Tommies, I believe, were as humane as they could be.  There is a genuine love for our animals and the most popular artwork of the Great War was “Goodbye Old Man” by Fortunino Matania[1] which depicted a Gunner tending his dying horse.

We even award a medal to honour the work of animals – the Dickin Medal, named after Maria Dickin, the founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals [PDSA], a British veterinary charity, instituted in 1943.  Between 1943 and 1949, 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, 3 horses and a ship’s cat were awarded the honour.[2]

WW2 generated a need for a mobile tactical RAF Police squadron capable of providing support to an air force operating under field conditions close to the front line.  50 RAF Police NCOs were selected and trained and the unit formed part of the BEF which landed in France on the day war was declared.  War also brought about a rapid expansion of the RAF Police which were stationed overseas in India, Ceylon, Malta, Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, South Africa, West Africa, the Bahamas, Gibraltar, the Azores, Iceland and up until the Japanese occupation Hong Kong and Singapore.  At the time, there were 2 variations of RAF Police:

  1. Those employed outside bases known as provost who were responsible, through their own superiors to the Provost Marshal
  2. Those employed within bases, known as Station Police were accountable to their own station commander.

In 1940, in order to reduce manpower taken up for security of RAF stations, aircraft and equipment, the threat of sabotage, espionage and black market theft, the RAF School of Security was formed at RAF Halton staffed by RAF Police instructors. The use of guard dogs was given serious consideration.

24 March 1944: Following Air Ministry approval from the Chief of Air Staff himself, the first batch of RAF Police NCO’s commenced their training of dog handlers.  In 1944, RAF Police took over the Ministry of Aircraft Production Guard Dog School and began utilising dogs to protect RAF assets, releasing thousands of airmen from guard duties.  Specially formed RAF Police provost and security units accompanied the invasion of France on D Day and thereafter joined the advance towards Germany.[3]

In 1946, the Ministry of Aircraft Production’s Guard Dog School had been fully taken over by the RAF Police and re-titled as the RAF Police Dog Training School with its base at RAF Staverton.[4]

Traditionally, the most common breed for the military working dog and police-type operations has been the German Shepherd. [5]

28 Dogs including several RAF/RAF Police dogs have won the ultimate recognition by being awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal otherwise known as the Animal Victoria Cross for bravery in the service of the UK Armed Forces.[6]

In our, Evenwood and Ramshaw History Society, remembrance work, we always pay tribute to our animals and the use of the purple poppy is the traditional way of doing this.  St. Paul’s poppy display within the church includes the purple poppy and we are pleased to see that the War Memorial in the cemetery often includes an appropriate tribute.

Thanks to Norma Marshall for details of Prince.

REFERENCES

[1]  The Green Howards [Yorkshire Regiment] commissioned the Italian war artist Fortunino Matania “THE MENIN CROSSROADS” 1923.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dickin_Medal

[3] “A Concise Global History of the RAF Police 1918-2018” S.R Davies 2017

[4] https://www.k9history.com/uk-royal-air-force-police-dog-history.htm

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogs_in_warfare

[6] https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/dogs-war-raf-use-paws-ground/