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Digger the War DogPrint Page Print this page

28-October-2017 (Nigel Allsopp)
28-October-2017 (Nigel Allsopp)

Photographs supplied by Nigel Allsopp (President, Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation) / Mary Beaven
The memorial commemorates Digger, a dark brown and white bulldog who served with the AIF during World War One. The unveiling of the memorial was performed by Rex Hoskin, grandson of Sgt Martin and the President of West Croydon RSL.

The Australian War Animal Memorial Organization opened the Digger war dog memorial at West Croydon RSL, South Australia on Saturday 28 Oct. Around 200 people attended the event including Federal and State Ministers. The VIPs on the day however were family members of Diggers handler James Martin.

Digger, a dark brown and white bulldog, he accompanied his owner, Sergeant James Harold Martin, during his service overseas and is said to have served three and a half years with the AIF. Martin, an electrician from Hindmarsh in South Australia enlisted on 18 September 1914, at the age of 22. Digger seems to have been a stray dog that attached himself to soldiers training at Broadmeadows and followed them down to the troopships. Martin adopted him as a mascot and they sailed from Melbourne on 20 October 1914. Martin served initially with 1 Division Signal Company on Gallipoli, but transferred to 2 Division Signal Company in July 1915.

He remained with the company, attached to the Engineers, during his service on the Western Front in France and Belgium. Digger's remarkable service is described how Digger 'went over the top' 16 times and had been through some of the worst battles on Gallipoli and the Western Front. He had been wounded and gassed at Pozières in 1916, shot through the jaw, losing three teeth, was blinded in the right eye and deaf in the left ear. At the sound of a gas alarm, it was reported that Digger would rush to his nearest human companion to have his gas mask fitted. There are also accounts of how Digger would take food to wounded men stranded in no man's land, sometimes bringing back written messages.

Martin returned to Australia on 12 May 1918 and was discharged medically unfit. Digger accompanied him as strict quarantine regulations relating to the arrival of dogs in Australia from overseas did not come into force until June 1918. He and Digger settled in Sydney. Upon their return to Australia, Sergeant Martin and Digger continued to do their bit for the war effort by attending ceremonies and marches in support of recruitment, fundraising and returning men. 
Digger had been wounded and gassed at Pozières in 1916 and needed cod liver oil for his burns. This was expensive so a picture postcard of Digger, wearing the inscribed silver collar made for him on his return to Australia, with patriotic red, white and blue ribbons attached to it, was produced and the money realized from its sale used to buy the oil. It is said that the dog was also presented with a free tram and rail pass so that he could accompany Martin. Digger died, as an old dog, on Empire Day (24 May - year not known) when he was frightened by the celebratory fireworks. Thinking he was under fire again he attempted to jump the fence but failed and fell back with a burst blood vessel. Digger managed to crawl back into the house and died on Martin's bed. Martin was in the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick at the time, but he arranged through Mrs J A Little, a volunteer who visited the hospital twice a day to the help the soldiers there, to have Digger's hide tanned. This is at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. 

Note: The video which tells Digger's story can be viewed on :
https://www.facebook.com/ttadelaide/videos/1613221508699459/

Location

Address:19 Rosetta Street, West Croydon & Kilkenny Sub-Branch Memorial Hall, West Croydon, 5008
State:SA
Area:AUS
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -34.890103
Long: 138.557772
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Details

Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Culture
Sub-Theme:Animals
Actual Event STart Date:04-August-1914
Actual Event End Date:28-June-1919

Dedication

Actual Monument Dedication Date:Saturday 28th October, 2017
Front Inscription
[ Etching of Digger ] 

Digger the War Dog

A dark brown and white bulldog accompanied his owner, Sergeant James Harold Martin, during his three and a half years with the AIF. Initially with 1 Division Signal Company on Gallipoli, then 2 Division Signal Company where he remained attached to the Engineers, during his service on the Western Front in France and Belgium. Digger 'went over the top' 16 times and had been through some of the worst battles on Gallipoli and the Western Front. He had been wounded and gassed at Pozières in 1916, shot through the jaw, losing three teeth, was blinded in the right eye and deaf in the left ear.


Plaque : 

Saint Francis

Love of all God`s creatures
 

Source: MA,Nigel Allsopp, AWAMO
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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