Bonzo's War by Clare Campbell

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Brother Ranulf
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Bonzo's War by Clare Campbell

Postby Brother Ranulf » Sat Dec 03, 2016 7:58 pm

Bonzo's War, Animals Under Fire 1939 - 1945, ISBN: 978-1-47210-680-3

Few books have surprised or shocked me as much as this unassuming little paperback, which my wife thought might interest me. My previous forays into WW2 histories have looked at Battle of Britain pilots, ambulance vehicles, the role of women in anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries, uniforms, weapons, the diary of Anne Frank, the Battle of France and Dunkirk and specific actions such as the Bruneval raid. This book took me, for the first time, into the experience of the nation's pets during the war.

Recent criticism of various animal welfare charities over dodgy fundraising schemes pales into insignificance against their role in destroying unbelievably vast numbers of cats and dogs following the outbreak of war, simply on the basis that food rationing was likely to be imposed and pets would become a liability. Pets would not be permitted into air raid shelters and such animals would be liable to run amok during bombing raids. In September 1940, the RSPCA alone destroyed 10,100 pets and the PDSA's Ilford premises still overlook an official but unmarked cemetery where 750,000 dogs and cats were buried during the war. Government advice was to either evacuate animals to the countryside or have them humanely put down; a policy which was carried out by vets and animal welfare charities on a horrific scale.

One detail that shocked me more than any other was that during extensive pre-war slum clearances, the RSPCA was responsible for killing over 50,000 animals a year using (among other systems) carbon monoxide chambers fed by car exhausts - the charity was prosecuted for cruelty as a result.

This part of the book is harrowing, to say the least, but it transforms into a more upbeat read with the gradual realisation that dogs could be useful to the war effort, such as finding buried victims, as security guards at key sites and in hunting landmines and unexploded ordnance.

A fascinating and remarkable account of a largely overlooked aspect of WW2.


Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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Jack Campin
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Re: Bonzo's War by Clare Campbell

Postby Jack Campin » Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:06 am

Linking two of your themes: a friend of mine is a lady in her 90s who was a driver during WW2, delivering and collecting barrage balloons all over Britain in her Dodge truck. She did this alone, and when she adopted a stray dog she found near Birkenhead, the authorities let her keep it in the cab with her for protection.

I'll try to get some photos, she's been a compulsive documenter of everything around her since her childhood. Problem is she's now totally blind and depends on my wife to search and catalogue her pictures.



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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Bonzo's War by Clare Campbell

Postby Brother Ranulf » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:36 am

I would be very interested in seeing any of your friend's photographs, she sounds like an amazing lady. We often forget that this type of history is still within living memory for some people, although their numbers are dwindling rapidly. My wife recalls her late grandfather being strafed by a German plane while driving his tractor in fields close to where we live.


Brother Ranulf



"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138


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