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Duxford, dogs and other four-legged friends

George Unwin and his Alsatian Flash. By permission of the Imperial War Museum,IWM CH 001343

Sarah pointed out some time ago how often dogs appear in photographs of Duxford.  Dogs and other animals were a key part of station life.

There are lots of accounts and photographs of pets and mascots at Duxford: the unnamed First World War donkey (below), the Station Commander’s horse, Flash the Alsatian (above), Rangy the Spaniel and No. 609 Squadron’s famous mascot “William de Goat” to name a few.

A donkey at the Duxford sports day, during the First World War. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM Q 114861

In the photo below, we see No. 19 Squadron at the outbreak of the Second World War. An unnamed cat is perched on James Coward’s shoulder (back row, right) and the top of Francis Brinsden’s Spaniel ‘Rangy’ is just visible at the bottom of the shot.

No. 19 Squadron, 1939 - with cat and dog. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM HU 27858

When Duxford’s satellite station Fowlmere was reopened in the Second World War, it was still partly a farm, complete with livestock. One veteran remembered:

“Fowlmere…wasn’t really as nice as the airfield here because we were living in Nissen huts right next to a piggery. And the smell from the pigs wasn’t very pleasant.  We didn’t think much of that.”

Duxford closed as an RAF station in 1961, but that is seemingly not the end of the animal story. Look at this next photo, of a tiny plaque dedicated to ‘Spot’ – the Ministry of Public Building and Works’ cat, which died in 1969.

The plaque dedicated to the memory of the Ministry of Buildings and Public Works' cat 'Spot', 1969.

Can you guess where it is, or better still find it on your next visit? Bear in mind Duxford is about a mile in length, and the plaque is a few centimetres wide. Happy hunting!

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1 comment
  1. Carl says: June 6, 20111:54 pm

    Here’s a link to a great online exhibition which discusses ‘squadron dogs’, and mentions a few Duxford favourites:

    http://www.vintagewings.ca/VintageNews/Stories/tabid/116/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/293/language/en-CA/In-Praise-of-The-Squadron-Pooch.aspx

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