This Remembrance Day, we look back at a four-legged celebrity who became a national hero for his service during World War I. Sergeant Stubby is now the protagonist of his very own film which features the voices of Gérard Depardieu and Helena Bonham Carter. He is widely believed to be the most decorated dog of the First World War and certainly one of the bravest!
Starting life as a stray, he happened to wander on to fields owned by Yale University, where military troops were training. Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment took a liking to him and began to look after him. Conroy even stowed him away on a ship to France and his life begun as the official mascot of the regiment.
He stayed and comforted Robert Conroy through the Spanish Flu, as well as many others. He would venture into No Man’s Land and locate wounded soldiers, staying by their side. His acute senses were invaluable as he could hear incoming missiles long before his human companions. On one occasion he even saved a whole camp from a mustard gas attack by running through the trench barking and pulling at the soldiers’ clothes to wake them, having smelt it immediately. In fact, he became such a valued member of the regiment that when Stubby was wounded himself, he was treated at a human hospital instead of a veterinary practice.
After the war he was praised for his “heroism of the highest calibre” by the Commander of the American forces in Europe. Medals poured in, with one medal being given by the French Government, and Stubby became a Sergeant – the first dog to be ranked in the US Army. He was presented to three different sitting presidents and as a mark of respect after his death, his ashes were placed inside taxidermy of a similar-looking dog, and are now on show at the Smithsonian Museum.
Here in London we commemorate animals who served heroically alongside British Troops in the twentieth-century with a Hyde Park Memorial. Sergeant Stubby is one of numerous amazing dogs around the world, to have raised morale and saved lives. On all sides, man’s best friend continually surpasses his title.