Mounted black & tan Doberman messenger dog named 'Roff' : German Army

Accession Number RELAWM04369
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Dog hide
Location Main Bld: First World War Gallery: Western Front 1918: Villers Bretonneaux
Maker Roland Ward Ltd, Taxidermist
Place made United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Date made 26 November 1919
Conflict Period 1910-1919
First World War, 1914-1918

Mounted and stuffed German black & tan Doberman messenger dog named 'Roff'. His tail is docked and his ears cropped. The dog is wearing a chain collar with name plate and identity disc (RELAWM09179). The nameplate is engraved 'DIENSTHUND' and the identity disc is engraved '115C3' and 'DIENSTHUND WESTFRONT'. Also on the collar is a message container (RELAWM09261).

History / Summary

On 3 May 1918, Corporal M Roach and Private R Conway of C Company, 13 Battalion AIF, who were in an advanced post in trenches outside Villers-Bretonneux (Sector P.25.c.8.6), France, enticed a German message dog into their lines. The dog had a message on its collar when it was captured, which was quickly removed and sent to headquarters for translation, but the dog escaped. It was recaptured shortly afterwards by D Company. The message he carried was from a German platoon commander in the front-line, complaining that his men were tired and had not had food for 48 hours. His company commander had folded it back and written; 'Weber has been in longer than you, and he does not complain. We will send you food tonight. Give Roff any further messages. He does not complain.'. 'Roff' remained with the unit as a mascot from May to September, attached to the Quartermasters Stores. A set of harness and an improvised cart were made for him by the section, and he used to carry stores for the staff, until he became savage and was sent to England with a view to having him transferred to the Sydney Zoo. Colonel D G Marks, 13 Battalion AIF, placed him in quarantine at the Bitterne Manor Farm Quarantine Kennels, in Southampton, England, on 19 September 1918, where he was cared for by Mr W A Della Gana, the Veterinary Officer for the Commonwealth of Australia, but it was soon discovered that regulations forbade the importation of dogs to Australia and he remained at the kennels. He developed a big abscess on the side of his neck in September 1919, which apparently healed, but he developed a swelling on each side of the throat and became extremely thin. Roff died on the night of 14-15 October 1919. A couple of days later it was decided to have him stuffed and mounted by Roland Ward Ltd, Taxidermist, of 167 Picadilly, at a cost of eight pounds. The mounting was completed on 26 November 1919 and he was sent to Australia, where he was displayed at the War Museum in Sydney during the 1920s.