This article was inspired by a thread on the Rorke's Drift discussion forum which included some thoughts on soldiers' dogs present at the battle of Isandlwana. I won't avoid the obvious titles suggested by the topic...

Afghan Hounds
Dogs of War - tales of man's best friend in the Afghan campaign
by Garen Ewing

The most famous dog known from the Afghan War of 1878-1880 was undoubtedly Bobbie, the little white dog that belonged to Lance-Sergeant Peter Kelly, and who was perhaps the sole 'British' witness of the Last Eleven at the fateful battle of Maiwand. As the remaining few soldiers of the 66th Foot left at Khig rallied round their colours, they made a final charge into the surrounding mass of Afghan fighters, with only the testimony of one of Ayub Khan's artillery generals to tell of their final action, along with the evidence of their bodies when the British returned on burial duty several weeks later. The rest of the regiment and force were retreating to Kandahar in a fairly chaotic state, and as Bobbie found himself alone among the victorious tribesmen, and despite being wounded, he managed to catch up with the British column and get back to Kandahar, where he was reunited with his delighted master, also among the wounded. Back in England, Bobbie had an audience with Queen Victoria when some of the 66th received their Distinguished Conduct Medals at Osborne House. Alas, a year later Bobbie was accidentally run over and killed by a hansom cab in Gosport (one of the soldiers of the regiment tried to club the cab driver with his rifle-butt, but was stopped by the commanding officer present), but he can still be seen today, at the excellent regimental museum in Salisbury, decorated with an unknown soldier's Afghan War medal.

Bobbie was not the only dog at Maiwand. Captain William McMath was followed onto the field by his faithful little fox terrier, Nellie, whose body was discovered next to her master's when the British returned to the battlefield some weeks later - a sad find among many that day.

And an Afghan war medal also hung round the neck of Ghazi, a huge fierce Russian mastiff that joined the 92nd Highlanders at Ghazi on their march from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880. He did not not take any particular owner, but did stay with the regiment, snarling at any tribesmen that wandered too close. He also displayed this attitude to the Boers at Majuba Hill the following year, when, wounded from a bullet, the Boers took his collar with its Afghan medal and clasps. Ghazi waited for his moment and managed to limp off and rejoin the main body of the Gordon Highlanders at the base of the hill, eventually coming to England.

Dandy was a little Clumber Spaniel, born in India and brought up by the Rev. G. M. Gordon. He padded 500 miles alongside his master from Dera Ghazi Khan to Kandahar. During the fight at Deh Khoja, on August 16th 1880, Gordon went out to help some of the wounded but ended up as a casualty himself, with Dandy by his side. Dandy fell in to the care of Rev. A. G. Cave after that, who took him back to England on the Malabar with the 66th Regiment, where he was passed on to the Rev. Gordon's brother, a Major in the Royal Artillery.

A revealing tale could have been told by a little Chinese pug called Patty. When General Roberts entered Kabul in October 1879 and set up camp outside its walls, an Armenian spirit seller came in and handed over the dog, saying he had found her wandering Kabul's lanes and alleys after Herati troops had destroyed the Residency and killed Sir Louis Cavagnari and the rest of the British mission there. It was quickly recognised as Cavagnari's own dog, who had accompanied her master through the Khyber Pass, at Ali Musjid, the occupation of Jalalabad and at the signing of the Treaty of Gandamak. She was sent back to Lady Cavagnari, who remembered that the dog had been a present from Major Wigram Battye of the Guides who had also been killed in the war a few months earlier, at Fatehbad.

Captain Francis Howard of the 4th Rifle Battalion had a spaniel when he and his regiment were quartered at Jalalabad, but decided to send it back with Lieutenant Geoffrey Hornby when that officer returned to Peshawar early in 1879. But he was to see the dog again sooner than he expected, for it stayed just three days with Lieutenant Hornby at Peshawar, then turned up at Jalalabad forty-two hours later, having traversed the Khyber Pass and beyond Dakka to get back to its master. Howard reported that the dog was 'rather footsore, but otherwise fit'.

Patty, the Chinese pug dog present at the Kabul massacre.

In between the two campaigns, after the Treaty of Gandamak, the regiments started to pull out of Afghanistan, but in the Khyber this proved a deadly strategy as cholera took hold in the camps and did what the Afridi jezails had failed to do, decimating the ranks. When a soldier died, any belongings that were not of sentimental value to his family were sold off, and it was in this way that Captain George Younghusband came to own Baz, a big greyhound descended from Tom, a dog that Colonel Lumsden of the Guides had imported from England twenty years previously for hunting with hawks. Baz would pretty much look after himself, but on cold nights would curl up at the foot of his master's bed, keeping himself - and the captain's feet - warm. Much later, he would accompany Younghusband on duty on the Northwest Frontier outposts, but when he was left with new owners after the Captain went home on sick leave, he decided to trot off and search all the outpost forts, one by one, for his old master. Dedicated to his search, he grew thin and weak, and was eventually spotted by a village woman being attacked by a pack of pariah dogs, but she arrived too late, and by the time they were chased off, Baz had breathed his last. It was then she saw the dog wore a collar with a brass plate attached and, frightened of the consequences, she informed a fellow villager who was a soldier of the Guides, home on leave. In turn, he was able to take the nameplate back to Younghusband, who learnt of Baz's sad demise.

George Younghusband owned another dog of which he was very fond, a fox terrier called Judy, who he had trained himself. When the second campaign of the Afghan war started, Judy was with her master as he and his unit skirmished in the Jugdulluk Pass. As the tribesmen were fleeing from a battle lost, Judy ran after one of them and caught onto his baggy trousers. Younghusband just had time to see a long Afghan knife flash in the sun before they both disappeared, and with more pressing matters at hand, he was unable to go after them. With a heavy heart, he gave Judy up for lost. A month later a note came down the line from a fellow officer saying that one morning he had discovered a very thin and tired little dog sleeping at the foot of his bed, and engraved on the collar was the name Judy. Dog and captain were reunited and Younghusband writes "unfortunately she could not tell us where she had been all that month, whether chasing relays of Afghans with baggy trousers, or merely searching up and down the line for her old master".

The theme of dogs travelling miles through Afghanistan to find their lost masters does not end there. After the battle of Ahmed Khel during General Stewart's march from Kandahar to Kabul, Veterinary Surgeon Charles Clayton found that his favourite pal, a white terrier with one black eye named Budge, was missing. But she was not lost for good, and a number of days later she turned up at the mess of the Royal Artillery at Kandahar, having traversed roughly 200 miles back to where the march had started.

After the last battle of the war had been fought at Kandahar, some of the regiments started to move out for an expedition into the Marri country, but before they left some of the soldiers were allowed leave to go into the city's bazaar to do a bit of shopping. One Sikh turned up at camp with three very fine-looking Persian greyhounds and his commander asked how much he'd paid for them. With a grin the Sikh replied that he had been "very anxious, very anxious indeed to pay for them, only I could not find the owner!"

Commemorative coin featuring Bobbie, awarded to those who contributed to the Animals in War Memorial in Park Lane, London.

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