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The Dogs of War

South Vietnam. July 1970. The tracker team of 2RAR /NZ (ANZAC) (the ANZAC Battalion comprising 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment and a component from the 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment), is led out on patrol by tracker dog, Milo, from Fire Support Base (FSB) Tess, eight miles west of the 1st Australian Task Force (1ATF) Base at Nui Dat. FSB Tess is the current operational base for the battalion. Behind Milo on the left are: Private (Pte) Ron Johnson, 19, from Newcastle, NSW; Pte Kevin Lawrence, 23, from Sydney, NSW; Pte George Cottam, 22, from Nagambie, Victoria; and Pte Robert Payne, 22, from South Perth, WA. On the right, from the front, are: Corporal Peter Clark, 19, from Dandenong, VIC.; Pte Roy Hameister, 24, from Perth, WA; and Pte John Pigott, 22, from Toowoomba, QLD.

Dogs in the Great War

3133 Corporal James Coull, NCO in charge, with dogs of No. 3 Messenger Dog Section, attached to the 4th Divisional Signal Company, in a railway cutting near Villers-Bretonneux while operating with 12th Brigade. 

The Section comprised sixteen men and fifty messenger dogs. These dogs worked with fairly successful results, but were never solely relied on in sending messages. Left to right: War Dog 103 Nell, a Cross Setter; 102 Trick, a Collie; 101 Bullet, an Airedale. All three dogs were very efficient in message carrying and saw service with the 2nd, 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, also with Divisions of the British 8th Corps (Imperial). 102 Trick was particularly efficient and was well known by all Brigades of above-named Divisions. He was specially mentioned by Signal Officer of 2nd Division for good work at Rubimont, near Heilly.

Dogs in World War 2
Faria Valley, New Guinea. 1943-10-20. SX17682 private J. G. Worchester of the 2/27th Australian Infantry Battalion and his dog "Sandy". "Sandy" was one of the many dogs trained by the United States Dog Detachment for the Australian Army, for use as scouts and messengers for forward patrols. Private Worchester can be seen placing a message in the dog's collar. Faria Valley, New Guinea. 1943-10-20. "Sandy" a dog trained by the United States Dog Detachment for the 2/27th Australian Infantry Battalion, crossing a river on his way back to headquarters with a message in his collar
The Battle for New Guinea
Dogs in South Viet Nam
Soldiers from 7RAR's Fire Assault Pl Tracking Team wait through a tropical downpour on the battalion helipad, Porky Seven, to carry out helicopter winching training with tracker dogs Tiber and Justin. Tiber is wearing a special harness allowing the tracking dogs to be inserted or extracted from the jungle by the helicopter winch.
AWM EKN/76/0097/VN.


A combat tracking team is choppered into a recent contact site to begin following up wounded Viet Cong. AWM P0800/72/30 


Pte Chad Sherrin, left, with Brutus and Pte Wayne Handley with Nero set out for a tracking exercise before the battalion's deployment to South-East Asia.
Photo courtesy of Chad Sherrin.


Dogs were first introduced into the Royal Australian Air Force during 1943, when asset security was provided by untrained and extremely savage dogs, which were placed loose inside warehouses and compounds, tied to aircraft or fixed to long lines, so they could run back and forth along a fence lines etc.

It wasn't until August 26, 1954, ten years later,  that trained patrol dogs and K9 handlers were finally introduced into the RAAF; and that the RAAF Police Dog Training Centre was formed, at No. 1 Central Reserve, RAAF Albury, New South Wales.

Today,  the Royal Australian Air Force,  is the largest single corporate user of military working dogs in Australia. Its 195 MWD have an important role in the security of high-value RAAF assets at some 12 bases and establishments located across Australia. The RAAF currently has about 180 trained dog handlers on active duty.

The RAAFs basic preparation and dog training course is four months, and is conducted at the Security (Dog Training) and Fire School, located in Amberley, Queensland. 

The School is also responsible for training all service dogs used by all of its Defence Forces.

Breeds used are German Shepherds and mixes, and Labs, although they are moving towards replacing the German Shepherd, with the shorter hair Belgian Shepherd, who is better able to handle the extreme temperatures at some air bases, and installations.

The first Australian Army and Navy Police Dog sections were introduced in 1977, and became fully operational in 1978. 

It should be noted, that units of the Australian Army were using patrol and tracker dogs, as far back as the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, and in Borneo. 

Dog training then, was conducted by members of the British Army's RAVC and SAS units.

1967  during the Vietnam War, the Australian Army provided two units of Tracker Dogs, that were trained, by the Tracking Wing, of the School of Infantry, at Ingleburn  a small military base located outside of Sydney, in 1966. The Tracking Wing was closed by the government  when Australia's involvement in Vietnam ended.

Baidoa, Somalia. 1993-03-22. Lieutenant Bob Worswick (behind dog handler), and Corporal T. R. Connor, members of 2 Platoon, A Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), and a dog handler from 3 Combat Engineer Regiment, using one of their three dogs during a foot patrol through the native quarter. They are serving with the Australian contingent to the Unified Task Force in Somalia (UNITAF).

Military working dogs of the Australian Defence Forces have served since the eighties, under the United Nations' flag in: Sinai, Cambodia, Bouganville, and today in Kosovo and East Timor with Anzac.  Australia's combined military services use more MWD today, than at anytime in its history!

more detail available at

This Digger and his dog form part of a Royal Australian Engineer High-risk Search Team. They are an explosive-detection team. from Army Magazine of June 1995

In memory of our "tracker dogs"

By Robert McLean.

A war memorial with an unusual twist, sits in a small park overlooking the seas of the South Pacific Ocean at Alexander Headland.

The memorial recognizes Australians who represented our country in confrontations that plagued South Vietnam from 1967 until 1971 - unlike most memorials which acknowledge the efforts of people, this one is for our four footed friends, dogs.

The inscription says:

War dog memorial

Dedicated to the Australian tracker dogs the served in South Vietnam - 1967-1971.

They did not return from the war

Ceasar, Janus, Juno, Marcian, Mila, Trajan, Cassius, Julian, Justin, Marcus, Tiber.

  • Down jungle tracks, through shot and shell, 

  • ears pricked, keen sense of smell; 

  • our tracker dogs with care and poise, 

  • alert to ambush, foreign noise; 

  • never whimper, whine nor bark, 

  • their service honoured with this plaque, 

  • no medals pinned to hairy chest, 

  • they stayed behind, they were the best.

  • All gave something, some gave all, those who knew you, will never forget you.

Few Australians would even know we had tracker dogs in our armed forces, and probably even fewer would know they played their part in South Vietnam.

Interestingly those who visit Alexander Headland on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and admire the vista from a park overlooking the ocean would know, as they are in the company of at least the spirits of Australia's tracker dogs.

A simple war memorial for our truly unsung heroes in a truly beautiful spot.

The monument recognises the enormous contribution by the war dogs that saved countless soldiers lives in Viet Nam.

The monument was unveiled at a ceremony on Saturday 7th April 2001 at 12 noon at The Bluff, Alexandra Headland, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.

At the base of the rock at the foot of the carving is a drinking trough where local dog owners can water their animals while walking their dogs.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces