September 11, 2015 | Posted in War Dogs

Tich-–-The-Desert-Rat-350PX

Picture For Representation

Tich, the mixed-breed military dog, started life in the Egyptian town of El Alamein. And this is where this jet black bitch first came in contact with the British gents with whom she would author an epic of human gallantry and canine heroism that resulted in many Allied lives saved across hard-fought campaigns in North Africa, Italy, Austria, and France.

Britain’s King’s Royal Rifle Corps is a part of the famed Eighth Army and it was to this corps that Tich was attached with after an Arab sold her to Corporal John Sainsby.  After a couple of weeks with the corporal, Tich was handed over to Rifleman Tommy Walker and the two were together till Tich lived.

During the African campaign, Tich would ride atop Walker’s mini-tank or Bren-gun carrier. Even today, there are soldiers around who recall fondly the sight and how it would instill courage in them to go after the Hun.

Tich, by now nicknamed “the desert rat” showed unflinching devotion to Walker and would follow him into the heart of the action. Walker was quoted as saying that the black mongrel’s acute hearing would invariably warn them of incoming enemy shells and it gave them time to take evasive action. The bond between dog and human was deep and once when Tick was stung by a scorpion in the desert, Walker sucked out the venom with his mouth.

Tich picked up some idiosyncrasies while in the desert; she learned to enjoy a cigarette and was adept at rolling it from one side of her mouth to the other. Scarcity of drinking water in the desert led her to drinking shaving water. She developed a liking for it and even after the war was over she preferred it to fresh water.

When the unit was ordered to move to Italy, Tich was smuggled aboard ship and landed with the unit in Italy. In between the fighting, Tich found time to give a litter of six puppies and all of these were adopted by soldiers.

During the Italian campaign, Tich had a close encounter with death when pieces of shrapnel got embedded in her body as she lay waiting for her master in an old farmhouse. Going against medical advice of doctor who advised that the animal be put down, Walker personally removed shrapnel fragments from her body and nursed her back to health over a period of two months.

And then came the act of bravery that earned Tich her Dickin Medal and her master a Military Medal. On a rescue mission on the Italy-Austria border, the duo faced a barrage of enemy fire and rescued thirty wounded soldiers over a period of nine hours during which they defied death.

Tich and Walker arrived in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1945 and the dog settled down to civilian life. In 1949, Tich was awarded the coveted Dickin Medal in front of an adoring audience of more than 8000 people.

Tich died in 1959 and was interred at the Ilford Animal Cemetery .