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British Armed Forces & National Service

Royal Army Veterinary Corps









World War Two
Following World War One the RAVC underwent rapid demobilisation and as mechanisation progressed the RAVC reduced in size. In 1938 the Army Veterinary School in Aldershot closed after 48 years.

At the outbreak of World War Two there were 85 officers (59 of whom were in India) and 105 soldiers, this increased over the course of the war to a total of 519 officers and 3,939 other ranks. A Even with the increased mechanisation of World War 2 horses and mules were still essential means of transport, most notably in Palestine and the Italian campaign where terrain made it impossible for vehicles. In 1942 the strength of military animals was 6,500 horses, 10,000 mules and 1,700 camels. The RAVC also had a presence in Greece, Ertirea and Syria and, as well as pack transport, were responsible for the local provision of livestock for slaughter, meat inspection and the rearing of livestock. The Italian campaign was the only one where RAVC units operated in the dual role of evacuating animal casualties and issuing replacements. In addition to the mules shipped over from North Africa and the Middle East there were almost 11,000 mules purchased in Sicily and Southern Italy. Battle casualties among mules in Italy were higher than had been anticipated, whilst losses from infection and contagious diseases were lower.

As well as horses and mules, in Burma General Wingate also used bullocks, which were utilised as pack animals but were also ‘meat on the hoof’. Elephants were also used as transport and forest clearance. Because of the nature of the campaign in Burma, animals receiving serious battle wounds could not be evacuated with the result that many that might have recovered had to be shot.

In 1942 the Army Veterinary and Remount Service became responsible for the procurement of dogs for all services and the War Dog Training School was established.

1945 onwards
In the aftermath of World War Two, the RAVC was involved in many countries, notably Germany, Austria, Greece, Burma and Malaya, in the disposal of surplus animals, the prevention of the spread of disease and animal husbandry. The RAVC also required a permanent depot and moved to the old Remount Depot at Melton Mowbray in 1946, where it remains to this day as the Defence Animal Centre.

The RAVC did not fall to pre-war levels as World War Two had highlighted the role of dogs, which took over from horses and mules as the main military animal (the last operational pack transport unit was eventually disbanded in Hong Kong in 1976 although recent operations in Afghanistan have questioned the need for pack transport in difficult terrain). In Malaya and Borneo, during the 1950s and 1960s, dogs worked as tracker dogs seeking out insurgents. In Northern Ireland dogs have worked as arms and explosive search dogs seeking out terrorist arms and explosives, a role they are also carrying out in Iraq, and in Hong Kong dogs were trained to detect and apprehend illegal immigrants. However the main role is still one of protection reducing the number of soldiers needed for guard duties. The RAVC has permanent dog units in Northern Ireland, England, Germany and Cyprus.

The RAVC is one of the smallest Corps in the British Army yet provides invaluable support to the Army’s animals and serves worldwide with them today.



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