Military pets have long been a part of military (and Canadian) history, so we were pleased to find three local examples in the class photos from No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Sky Harbour, Goderich.
The first class dog of No. 12 EFTS was Shorty the cocker spaniel, pictured sitting with his owner, LAC (Leading Aircraftman) Bill “Tex” Hopkins of Dennison, Texas. Thanks to a clipping from the Stratford Beacon-Herald, we were able to confirm that Hopkins was Shorty’s owner, and that after graduation from No. 12 EFTS, he accompanied Hopkins to his next stage of training.
We’re not sure, but based on appearance, we suspect the dog in the Class 21 photo might be Hank Henry’s dog, because we know he had a fox terrier with him on base. Henry was one of the original seven instructors posted to No. 12 EFTS, and one of his fellow instructors, Herbert Davidson, recounts in his memoir that his dog accompanied him on instructional flights:
The dog sat inside the back end of the coupe top atop the fuselage and slept, but as Hank said, “not when the student had control.” –Herbert Davidson, Airmans Dilemma, self-published, page 43.
We don’t have much information about this dog, or his classmates in the photo. We have names to accompany many of the class photos, but not all. In this case, we know from the uniforms that these trainees from the Fleet Air Arm, the aircraft branch of the British Royal Navy. Because the Fleet Air Arm only trained at No. 12 EFTS for about a year, we can date this photo to 1943 or 1944.
In Dogs of Air Training—Part 2, I’ll be posting a pair of letters about a dog-related incident that were published in the school’s newsletter. In the meantime, for more about military companion animals (including rabbits, cats, goats, and monkeys), check out these fine links:
Creature Comforts, an exhibit from the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum in Victoria, BC about the history of naval mascots.
In Praise of the Squadron Dog, an illustrated article about the companion dogs of military aviation.
War Animals (1914-1918), a Flickr set from Library and Archives Canada