With the reading we have been doing about the First World War the kids have picked up on an interesting theme – how animals were used during war time. The first example that really caught their attention were the pigeons that were carried inside the tanks and then used as messengers and from there they started investigating other animals including the roles dogs and horses played (they loved the stories about using dogs to catch the rats in the trenches).
And then last week we were fortunate enough to receive a lovely book from Collins called War School for Dogs: Band 16/Sapphire (Collins Big Cat) (it is part of their Big Cat series aimed at Key Stage 2 ages). Both my kids and I found this a fascinating read and it is perfect if the kids are learning about the First World War.
The book gives an interesting look at how dogs were first introduced into the world war, the initial reluctance to use them, the training they did and how things progressed once the military realized how useful they were. We were all amazed that at the beginning of the First World Germany had 6,000 trained military dogs yet Britain only had 1. That fact really surprised us. It was really interesting to read about Colonel Richardson’s determination that dogs could be useful in war time, how he stuck with it and trained them even after initial rejection. (After reading this book we watched a documentary and a picture of Richardson appeared and my son immediately recognised him as the World War 1 dog man – I love it when things like that happen.)
My kids were surprised to read that many families volunteered their pet dogs even though they could be injured or killed. It gave rise to an interesting discussion on how would families manage to look after their pets when they were living on rations. We also spoke about what it must have been like when some of those pets were returned after the war, did the kids think those dogs would behave differently after experiencing the war?
Although the book talks a lot about the First Wold War and how using dogs developed during the First World War it does also go on to talk about dogs in the Second Wold War and Military dogs today. It also mentions the PDSA Dickin Medal, which has been awarded to some military animals – we loved learning about this.
I REALLY like this book, it was perfect for my nine year old. He loved learning about these dogs and how they helped in war time. And for a child who loves learning about all kinds of animals this was an interesting war theme to explore. Finding angles like this means he ends up learning about History from an angle that he finds interesting which means he ends up doing even more reading and research on his own.
And as luck would have it I actually bought my son a book for Christmas called Heroes: Incredible true stories of courageous animals. As soon as he finished the War Schools for Dogs he dived into this and has been reading all kinds of different stories about amazing animals that have helped people. The Heroes Book is a general book about animal heroes but it does contain quite a few stories about animals in war time situations and even includes stories about some of the animals mentioned by name in the War School for Dogs book.
And we discovered we this clip on the BBC Bitesize site – Britain’s use of military dogs.
Admin – We were given the War School for Dogs book.
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