THEY were the four-legged troopers that became vital links in the trenches during the First World War, carrying out duties from transporting medicine and food to delivering messages and identifying casualties and dead soldiers.

Now the Airedale Terrier Club of Scotland is awaiting delivery of a granite monument to the breed which will be sited at the picturesque

fishing village of East Haven, near Carnoustie, where they were trained for wartime duties.

Club secretary Wendy Turne, told The National that the story started with dog-lover and Army Lieutenant-Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson, who became interested in training them at Panbride House in the early 1900s after witnessing how foreign forces used them.

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“He’d been watching the Russians and the Germans training the Airedales for war and when he came back he started training them here,” she said. “The first ones he trained he gave to the Glasgow police as official police dogs – two at Maryhill station and two at Queen’s Park station.

The National:

“Then he started training the war dogs – the Airedales are the king of terriers, they’re not small and with their tenacity and intelligence they were just what he was looking for, they had the power, the brains and the agility he needed.”

The dogs were initially trained for service in the Red Cross, where they were used to identify casualties.

“When they went out, if they found a body that still had life about it they lifted something such as a cap and ran back to the stretcher-bearers and guided them out to where the person was,” said Turner.

“Then the Army got interested and had them trained up for sentry duty, putting messages through the trenches. They even worked with crates on their backs for carrier pigeons.

“East Haven and Barry locals all joined in to help train them. The dogs carried first aid panniers and the locals’ reward at the end of the training were the miniature bottles of brandy in the first aid packs.”

The Army later opened an official war dog training school in Kent, which processed thousands of Airedales.

Sculptor Bruce Walker has started work on the 30-tonne block of granite that will become the memorial, which will feature life-size dogs and their handlers.

Former club chair Margaret Thompson, who is now its life president, said the memorial became possible after a year of fundraising brought in more than £40,000, with donations coming from around the world. She said: “The villagers at East Haven have been right behind us with the whole thing. Over the last few months they even planted poppies on the spot where the statue of the dogs will go.

The National:

“A lot of the people there – it was their fathers and grandfathers who actually helped in the training of the dogs.

“At times they had to go and lie out on the beach and the dogs had to go out and find them, so they’re all excited about it coming to their village.”

She will unveil the statue – anticipated in early April – around the time of her 92nd birthday, in recognition of her long association with the club.

“My father was one of the people who started it, so there’s been a long connection with my family.

“I was chairperson for about 16 years but I’m a life president and

co-ordinator of breed rescue, which finds new homes for any Airedales that need rehomed.

“We’ve got members from all over the world and umpteen from the north of England who say they want to join because their regional clubs ‘don’t offer the same fun that you do’.”