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Antis, the war dog that flew against the Luftwaffe

  • Thread starter jollyjacktar
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A remarkable story about dog and master.  Photo's and full story at link below.

So loyal, so brave, the dog who flew against the LuftwaffeAntis the German shepherd was discovered as a puppy in No Man's Land

RAF gunner Robert Bozdech adopted him as a member of 311 Squadron

Dog saved lives and could hear Luftwaffe planes before they arrived
Eventually he stowed away aboard Robert's aircraft, risking death and injury
He was awarded the Dickin medal for 'outstanding devotion to duty'


As enemy fire tore into its engines, the stricken warplane began a crazy descent into No Man’s Land in northern France. Gunner Robert Bozdech braced himself for a crash landing. Or worse.  With a hideous tearing of steel, the doomed craft ploughed into a patch of dark woodland. By the time it came to a juddering halt, embedded in thick snow and foliage, he had lost consciousness.  He came round with no idea of where he was or how much time he had lost. Just a few yards away the fighter-bomber’s French pilot lay seriously wounded.

Rising to a kneeling position, and miraculously unhurt, he spotted what looked like an old farmhouse 100 yards or so to the north. At a crouch he moved towards it.  Although there were no footprints in the snow, he could hear faint sounds of movement inside. Cocking his pistol, he gingerly pushed open the front door.  ‘Get your hands up!’ he shouted in halting French. ‘Show yourself! Now!’

The only response was the faintest hint of a yawn. Whoever was inside was defying him in the most insolent way possible.  Surely they’d understood? He didn’t know enough German to call out in the language of the enemy.  ‘Wake up, you b*****d!’ he snarled. ‘Show yourself!’  Down the barrel of his gun he spotted a movement. A small ball of grey-brown fluff was stumbling to its feet unsteadily and was peering up at him, growling out a throaty little challenge.  At the sight of it, the airman’s aggression evaporated. He’d been threatening a tiny puppy - and a courageous one at that.

‘Who left you here, alone and hungry?’ he said, picking up the little creature. He unzipped his leather flying jacket and slipped the puppy inside. ‘You’re coming with me, boy,’ he said. ‘We’re in this together.’  He couldn’t have known it, but that moment marked the start of a lifelong friendship - one that would see man and dog posted to England, then take to the skies over battle-torn Europe in one of World War II’s most inspirational stories of courage.

Just 24 hours after he’d been presumed killed in action, Robert Bozdech walked into his airbase at St Dizier, 200 miles away in France’s Champagne country, carrying his new-found friend. Rescued by a passing patrol, along with his pilot who survived, he had been flown back to rejoin the close-knit community of Czech servicemen fighting with the French Air Force who, like him, had fled their homeland when Germany invaded. 

The Czech airmen took the puppy immediately to their hearts, and named him Antis, after the Russian ANT dive-bombers they loved to fly back home. By now he and Robert were inseparable. ‘Even though he’s a German Shepherd, he was found in a French house,’ said one. ‘We’d better show him some solidarity.’

The rest of 1940 offered little chance of action for the airmen. But on May 10, at first light on a cloudless morning, battle finally commenced.
To ease the tension of waiting, Robert organised an impromptu game of football. Antis joined in with relentless determination and unbeatable speed. But all of a sudden he wasn’t in a playful mood any more.

Robert glanced up to see his young dog standing stiff-legged and staring at the horizon, hackles up and growling, just as he’d done as a tiny puppy in that French farmhouse. Seconds later the air-raid siren sounded and the first of the Luftwaffe’s Dornier Do-17s powered into view.
In the years to come, Antis’s extraordinary ability to sense enemy warplanes long before they were detectable by the human eye and ear, sometimes even by radar, would go on to save countless lives.

But Robert worried that if anything happened to him, who would look after his dog? He decided Antis would fly, too. When he was scrambled for his next sortie, he whistled for his dog to follow. As Robert climbed into his Potez-63, Antis leaped on its wing and climbed in beside him.He barely stirred when the twin engines roared into life. A quick nuzzle of the hand that reached down to pat his head and he seemed happy.Even more extraordinary was the dog’s reaction to combat. As the Potez dived, soared and swooped to avoid the anti-aircraft fire that bloomed all around them, Antis simply dozed through it all.

As the mighty Wehrmacht war machine rolled onwards over the next few weeks, the dangers for the Czech servicemen intensified.  Hurricane fighters from the RAF joined the French Air Force in their desperate efforts to prevent the British Expeditionary Force from being cut off.  But amid the maelstrom Robert Bozdech and his countrymen seemed to be leading charmed lives. None had been shot down, or even harmed.  The superstitious among them began to wonder if the presence of their cool and fearless canine mascot in the air was linked with their good fortune. 

When the French leader Marshal Petain announced in June 1940 that his country would sue for peace with Germany, the Czech airmen of French First Bomber-Reconnaissance Squadron decided to head for the one country still holding out against the German aggression: Great Britain.  With the Battle of Britain now at its height, one of the first postings for man and dog was to RAF Speke, in Liverpool, to help strengthen the city’s defences against the fearsome nightly bombardment from the Luftwaffe.

Hundreds of miles from home, trying to make a life in yet another strange country, he was gladder than ever of the company of his beloved Antis. On one of their nightly walks through the ravaged streets, Robert noticed his dog suddenly stand stock still, head thrust upwards and eyes raised to the sky. It was the familiar stance that meant ‘danger’.
‘Don’t worry, boy,’ said the airman, kneeling down to pat him. ‘We’re safe here. It’s the docks they’re after.’

Even as he spoke he heard the high-pitched scream of the first sticks of bombs plummeting out of the darkness. With no cover in sight he threw himself flat on the ground, pinning the dog beneath his body to shield him from the blast.  The raid was over in seconds. Stumbling to his feet, he saw that where three houses had stood before him, only shattered stumps of walls remained. Cries for help mingled with the crashing of falling masonry.

With Antis leading the way, he ran to the rescue. The dog was already scrabbling in the dust, pausing atop the mounds of rubble, his hyper-sensitive ears homing in on the pitiful pleas for help.  One rescue followed another. Even when Antis became engulfed by falling masonry and had to be rescued himself, he refused to give up, sniffing out a child no more than a year old.  Tt was well into the small hours when the exhausted airman and his dog arrived back at camp. For the last few hundred yards Robert had to carry Antis, so painful had his paws become. Not until he’d tended his dog did he accept any treatment for his own injuries.  But that dark night had proved that this very special animal was no mere pet, companion or mascot. He was a life-saver. 

It was a few months later that Antis watched his master disappear up the steps into the Wellington bomber. From the edge of the dispersal area at RAF East Wretham in Norfolk, their new base, he longed to join him.  The rules in Britain, though, would not allow it. With a mournful gaze he tracked the heavily laden aircraft, codenamed C for Cecilia, as it taxied towards the end of the runway.

One by one the bombers took off, but he seemed to know which one contained his master. He couldn’t tear his eyes away until the last speck of the plane had disappeared into the southern skies.  Finally, with a drooping tail, he sank on to his haunches, making it clear to the ground crew that this was where he was going to stay. No amount of entreating would make him change his mind. When food was brought he refused to eat it.  As dawn broke, the dog’s stance changed. It was as if he could sense that the planes were returning.  To the waiting crew it was clear he’d caught the sound of the Wellingtons’ engines in the distance. He was sifting the sounds, searching for the one he so wanted to hear.

Suddenly he was on his feet and barking loudly, beginning a wild war dance for joy, tearing round and round the group of waiting men as if he’d gone half-mad.  As C for Cecilia touched down, he could hardly contain his excitement. He waited until the hatches opened, as he’d been trained to do, then bolted forward, and was at the bottom of the ladder as his master stepped down.  It was a pattern that would repeat itself scores of times that summer as hostilities progressed.

In June 1941 Robert’s 311 Squadron was tasked to bomb the railway yard in Hamm, in the west of Germany.  'Then, quite suddenly, he threw his head back at the heavens and began to howl. It was a sound that none of the men had heard him make before: hollow, full of loss, spine-chilling'  The trusty Wellingtons, C for Cecilia included, were prepared for the coming sortie. As ever, Antis dozed near the runway once they had taken off.

It was 1am when he awoke from a long sleep as if from a sudden shock. He began to shiver. Then, quite suddenly, he threw his head back at the heavens and began to howl. It was a sound that none of the men had heard him make before: hollow, full of loss, spine-chilling.  ‘Cecilia’s in trouble,’ shouted one. ‘Antis can sense it. God knows how, but he can.’

Two hundred miles to the south east where an aerial battle raged over Occupied Europe, a shard of metal was punching through the Wellington’s Perspex gun turret, shattering it and burying itself in Robert’s forehead. The time was 1am precisely.  As blood poured into his eyes, the crippled Cecilia began to lose height. The coast of England was looming before her, a dark line on the blacked out horizon. The plane hurtled towards the cliffs.

Back at East Wretham the groundcrew waited for news. But nobody could get Antis to abandon his lonely vigil, even as rain lashed the airbase.  Late in the afternoon welcome intelligence arrived that the plane had been coaxed over the cliffs before its engine gave out, and had landed safely, in Norfolk. Robert had been taken to hospital and was likely to be there for several days.

But nobody could think how to pass on the news to his dog. If he continued to refuse food and shelter, he’d die.  It was the squadron’s padre who came up with the idea of asking the hospital to let Robert out for a few hours to rescue his faithful companion. For the second  night running, the staff at East Wretham covered the ravenous Antis with blankets, and prayed that he’d make it.  At dawn the next morning a car raced up the perimeter track. In the back was a bandaged, bruised Robert.

He sank to the ground beside his dog. A tongue flicked out and licked his master’s face tentatively.  Through the smell of lint and iodine, Antis could detect the familiar taste and scent. His tail thumped weakly as he tried unsuccessfully to stand.  But he couldn’t do it. Instead the wounded airman picked up his dog and cradling him in his arms, carried him to the waiting car.

It was late June when C for Cecilia was ready to take to the skies again. And for the first time Antis was nowhere to be seen as the crew completed their pre-flight checks and took to the air.  On board the plane, Robert tried to ignore his nagging anxiety. Maybe this was to be expected after the dog’s long and traumatic vigil during the previous mission.
The airman forced himself to focus on the dark skies ahead. They would soon be over the German coast, and danger beckoned.  Feeling a touch on his elbow he turned, expecting it to be the navigator with an important instruction.

It wasn’t. It was a German Shepherd, lying prone on the floor. Robert shook his head. It must be the altitude playing tricks. And yet there he was.  Antis must somehow have crept aboard the aircraft and stowed away, careful to stay hidden until there was nothing anybody could do about it.  Recovering from the shock, Robert saw that the dog’s flanks were heaving. They were climbing to 16,000ft, and Antis was having increasing trouble breathing in the thin atmosphere.Taking a massive gasp, the airman unstrapped the oxygen mask from his face and pressed it firmly over his dog’s muzzle. They shared the oxygen for the rest of the flight.

The plane dropped its payload on to the city of Bremen’s oil refinery and turned for home, surviving night fighters, ground fire and the threat of barrage balloons to make it safely back to East Wretham, where Robert prepared to face the music.Everybody knew it was strictly against Britain’s Air Ministry regulations to take an animal into the air, especially when flying a combat sortie over enemy territory. ‘No prizes for guessing where Antis has spent the night, then,’ said the Wing Commander.

‘Sir, please let me explain...’ began Robert.His superior threw up a hand. ‘There’s a very good English expression,’ he said. ‘What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve after.’ Antis continued to serve as 311 Squadron’s mascot for the rest of the war. In 1949 he was formally recognised as a war hero when he was awarded the Dickin medal - commonly known as the Animal Victoria Cross.

In 1951, Robert Bozdech was granted British nationality. Just two years later, alas, man and dog were parted for ever. After all they had been through Antis the hero, talisman and warrior, died at the age of 14. His gravestone bears the simple words in Czech: ‘Loyal unto death.’Robert married a British girl soon afterwards and they settled in the West Country to bring up their family.

He continued to serve with the RAF, including a combat deployment to Suez. But he never got another dog, and refused to allow his children one either. After Antis, the war dog, he swore he would never own one again.

Adapted from War Dog: The No-Man’s Land Puppy Who Took To The Skies by Damien Lewis, published by Sphere at £12.99. © Damien Lewis 2013. To order a copy at £11.49 (p&p free), call 0844 472 4157.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2482520/So-loyal-brave-dog-flew-Luftwaffe-awarded-animal-version-Victoria-Cross.html#ixzz2jO90Uwu9
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