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War Dogs | Dickin Medal recipients

War Dogs | Dickin Medal recipients
Graphite drawing of a German Shepard, War dog Antis held by Jacqueline. Remembrance poppies painted in brilliant red hues in foreground. Original photograph taken during WW2.

I was very lucky to be granted permission to use an image of Antis by Author Damien Lewis. It wasn't until I had read his biography of Antis that I learnt where it was taken and why he was pictured with a little girl.

Damiens book, War Dog, was based on the diary of airman Robert Bozdech, a Czechoslovakian who joined the French Foreign Legion when Germany invaded, thus gaining entry to the French Air Force. 

In the winter of 1939 in the cold snow of no-man's-land, Bozdech stumbled across the tiny, starving German Shepherd after being shot down during a daring mission over enemy lines.

Unable to desert his charge, he hid the dog inside his flying jacket as he made his escape. In the months that followed the pair would save each other's lives countless times as they fled France and flew together with Bomber Command; the puppy - which Robert named Ant - becoming the Squadron mascot along the way. Wounded repeatedly in action, shot, facing crash-landings and parachute bailouts, it was during one such period of recovery that he was asked to care for Jacqueline, the daughter of a local shopkeeper, whose husband had been killed. She would spend countless hours exploring with her hand tucked in his collar. He made sure she was always safe near the road and creek. A little sepia photograph was my inspiration.

Ant was eventually permanently grounded due to injury. Even then he refused to abandon his duty, waiting patiently beside the runway for his master's return from every sortie.  Both airman and dog survived the war, briefly returning to Czechoslovakia, only to have to flee to the UK as Russians meted out brutal reprisals on any 'English sympathisers'.

Robert never owned another dog.

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