DiggerOn Saturday, 28th October 2017 at West Croydon RSL in South Australia, a long awaited dog memorial was unveiled, in honour of the heroic efforts of a dark brown and white bulldog called 'Digger.'

This memorial was possible through the fine efforts of AWAMO, the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation, and very appropriately timed, as it coincided with the recent opening of the Animal War Memorial at Pozieres France in July this year (also organised by AWAMO and their supporters): the site where Digger was wounded.

Digger 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 troop ships. Martin adopted him as a mascot and he and Digger sailed from Melbourne on 20 October, 1914.Purple Poppy trans

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 as 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 Pozieres in 1916, shot through the jaw, (losing three teeth), was blinded in the right eye and deafened 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 then 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 Pozieres 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 realised 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.

Please view the heart-warming story of Digger re-enacted in this wonderful video: http://www.todaytonightadelaide.com.au/stories/digger

WAR ANIMAL MEMORIAL AT POZIERES-FRANCE The memorial honours the thousands of Australian animals that did not return home, and the 9 million animals from all Nations that died during WWI. Please see the memorial pictured on page 7 of Dogs NSW November 2017 magazine.

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