“Pooches and Pilots” is a photo exhibition guaranteed to appeal to animal lovers. It uses photos from our archives to explore the special relationship between airmen and their dogs – from the squadron mascots and pets of the two world wars through to the Military Working Dogs that serve in our Air Force today.
The exhibition contains a fascinating range of images, from World War One to the present – from official portraits to personal snaps, moments of poignancy to light-hearted humour, the Air Force dog is revealed in all his forms.
“Pooches and Pilots” is on display in the Caldwell Gallery, upstairs.
Even museum people make mistakes sometimes!
During the research for the “Pilots and Pooches” exhibition, our team came across this photo in our archives, which we believed to show the grave marker of a pet dog. After a bit more investigation, however, we have since discovered that it was not for a dog at all, but another animal entirely. Turns out that Bossy was in fact a cow!
While we still don’t know exactly who she belonged to, we do know that Bossy lived on the island of Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), which Allied Forces, including the United States and New Zealand, used as a military support base, naval harbour and airfield during World War Two. Because it was further from the front line, Santo didn’t suffer the same enemy bombardments and attacks that the Solomon Islands and New Guinea did. It was quite common, though, for a single Japanese aircraft to fly over at night, which set off the air raid siren and caused everyone to shelter in fox holes.
On the night of 15 September 1943, the Japanese did bomb the island, but caused little damage, with the only casualty being Bossy the cow. According to a nurse stationed on Santo at the time, someone erected this marker, bearing the rather tongue-in-cheek epitaph, on the spot where Bossy fell.