September 11, 2015 | Posted in War Dogs
Rob was a cattle collie owned by the Bayne family of Shropshire. He was born in July 1939 and his pet parents doted on him. Rob was allowed to sleep on a cozy armchair and Mr. Basil Bayne, who was a farmer, would take him along on his tractor to the farm. Rob enjoyed an idyllic life but the intensity with which the Second World War progressed led to the Bayne family offering Rob to the War Office which was in need of dogs for the war effort.
The year was 1942 and Rob’s entry into this whole new world changed his destiny. He received his training at the War Dog Training School at Northaw, Middlesex. He became War Dog 471/332. He learnt how to patrol, do sentry duty, and deliver messages. He must have cut a distinctive figure with his white face, “stockinged” legs, and a black bushy tail that ended in a white tip.
Rob and his handler were dispatched to North Africa as a part of an infantry regiment. And here were carried out exploits in bravery that have rarely been equaled in the annals of canine courage and undoubtedly never surpassed. Rob was attached with the British Special Air Service. He was put on guard duty at the SAS regiment quarters in Sousse, which lies sixty miles from Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia. His arrival brought down the incidences of supply pilferage. POWs brought to the camp gave him a wide berth. Rob had that natural canine instinct for recognizing the bad eggs.
Rob’s attitude and general demeanor impressed the regiment Quartermaster Captain Tom Burt who decided that it was time for the plucky collie to take on greater responsibilities. They say that war is a great incentive for innovation, and WWII certainly was. One of the innovations was in the use of animals being dropped behind enemy lines to aid commandos. But not every dog could take the rigors of going up in a plane wearing a harness or learn to keep quiet and not bark in excitement when parachuting down. The Americans had not had much success with para dropping dogs in enemy territory. But Capt. Burt believed that Rob had it in him. Rob did not disappoint, he didn’t take long to get used to a 93-pound harness nor did he show any apparent discomfort when the parachute would open and jerk him upward. On landing, Rob would lie still one of his handlers would come up and free him from the harness. Rob’s duty was gather together all members of a mission, para-dropped to a site. This was to be accomplished as noiselessly as possible in the dark. Working with the SAS, Rob was now involved in top secret activities, in fact, the outside world was not even supposed to be aware of his existence. Little information was released about the kind of work that the SAS did. There are no accurate records of what Rob actually did but there are reports that made two parachute landings and one landing by the sea in Italy after the North African campaign. Rob was with a team led by Lieutenant Alastair McGregor.
After the war, Rob was returned to the Bayne family and spent the rest of his years in peace away from exploding shells and sneaky enemies. He died in 1952, the proud winner of numerous awards including the Dickin Medal. He was Britain’s first parachute dog and his pet parents erected a loving memorial for him on their property, declining PDSA’s offer to bury Rob with other winners of the Dickin Medal.