War Dog: The No-Man’s Land Puppy Who Took to the Skies…

Written by Damien Lewis
Review by Marina Maxwell

Technically this book is creative non-fiction rather than a novel, as it features real events and people who were all connected to a dog that became famous, but the dialogue and certain scenarios have been invented by the author to complement an original unpublished manuscript by the dog’s owner, Czech flier, Robert Bozdech.

When Robert is shot down over the German front line in the early stages of World War II, neither he nor his co-pilot expect to survive, and while hiding out in an abandoned farmhouse they come across a starving orphaned puppy. Against all practical considerations Robert rescues the animal and keeps it tucked up in his jacket as the men struggle to escape into safety.

This is just the beginning of a lifelong bond that will see the German Shepherd, later named Antis, become a unique feature in Britain’s fight against Germany. Antis saves untold lives with his remarkable facility in detecting the approaching Luftwaffe long before the early warning systems, and he also locates people buried under rubble. In spite of numerous close shaves with pettiness and official regulations, he accompanies Robert in the gun turret of Wellington bomber C for Cecilia in RAF sorties over Germany, and he becomes the official mascot of 311 (Czech) Squadron. Dodging death many times both in the air and on the ground, Antis is rightly awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the Dickin Medal.

Naturally this story will appeal to dog lovers and has its sentimental side, but it is also a fine and deeply moving acknowledgement of the contribution and sacrifices made by the courageous Czech fliers in Britain’s war effort and thus deserves a wide audience. Even those who don’t normally read either war or dog stories will find this one hard to resist.