In early 1916, the 4th Battalion of the NZ Rifle Brigade took part in a parade down Queen Street, Auckland before they embarked overseas to Egypt to fight in World War I. ‘A’ company marched down the street waving to the cheering crowd, they were joined by their mascot, an American bulldog called Caesar.
Visit www.truecrimenz.com for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.
Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust
Music sourced from:
“What Is and What Could Be”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
“Day of Chaos”, “End of the Era”, “Heart of Nowhere”, “Plaint”, “Sunset at Glengorm”
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0
The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.
ANZAC I: Caesar the Anzac Dog
OUTBREAK OF WAR
The outbreak of ‘the war to end all wars’ in Europe in 1914 called upon the world to pick up their arms and led to the mobilisation of over 70 million military personnel worldwide to combat the German threat.
On the 5th of August 1914, Arthur Foljambe, the 1st Governor-General of NZ announced from parliament steps to a crowd of 12,000 in Wellington that alongside Britain; NZ was at war with Germany.
The Prime Minister of NZ, William Massey followed the Governor-General and addressed the patriotic crowded assemblage from Wellington’s parliament building:
“Ladies and gentlemen, fellow citizens of the Empire, after the very startling announcement which has been made to you by His Excellency the Governor, I venture to say we are all of one way of thinking: that the British Empire and the British people are to-day face to face with the most serious crisis they have ever experienced — the most serious crisis in the history of the Empire — and if we are to come through it successfully — and I am confident we shall come through successfully — then we must take notice of the very earnest advice contained in the last sentence of the message from His Majesty the King, and which has just been repeated to you by His Excellency the Governor. The British people must stand together ‘calm, united, resolute — trusting in God.’ I am glad to say, ladies and gentlemen, that is the feeling that obtains to-day not only in New Zealand, but every part of the Empire, and in consequence the British people are able to-day to present a united front to their enemies.”
“So far as NZ is concerned, it has done its duty on every occasion when the Empire required its assistance, and it will do its duty on the present occasion and in a whole-hearted manner. That we shall be called upon to make sacrifices goes without saying, but I am confident that these sacrifices will be made individually and collectively, willingly and in a manner worthy of the very highest traditions of the great race to which we belong”.
“Our first duty is to do everything we possibly can to protect our country and at the same time do everything we possibly can to assist the Empire, and when we have done all that mortal man can do, the rest must be left to a higher power — to Him who ‘watches over Israel and, who slumbers not nor sleeps.’”
“My message to you, the citizens of NZ, at the most trying moment of the history of the Empire, is this: Keep cool, stand fast, do your duty to your country and your Empire”.
A voice from the crowd yelled “We will do that!”
“I am sure you will”.
ASSEMBLING THE TROOPS
Preparations began for the mobilization of the First New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF). In total 42% of men of military age were conscripted into the NZEF; totaling 100,444 men, about 10% of the entire population of NZ at the time.
By late September 1914, the NZEF had mobilized two brigades in preparation to be deployed overseas — the NZ infantry Brigade and the NZ Mounted Rifles Brigade. The troops sailed to Egypt for further training. The NZEF troops were merged with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) becoming the Australia, New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).
On the 25th of April 1915, the Anzac troops landed by ship at what would become known as Anzac Cove in Gallipoli, Turkey. The Anzacs were expecting to land on a beach with a gentle slope up to the Turkish position, but due to a navigational error they instead found themselves at the bottom of a steep cliff. The ‘Turks’ had the high ground and therefore had a tactical advantage.
Nevertheless, the Anzacs fought bravely against the overwhelming Turkish forces, but overall the Gallipoli campaign was a failed venture as the Anzacs couldn’t make any progress inland. The Anzac troops were eventually withdrawn from Gallipoli in December 1915. Over the eight months of fighting, NZ suffered 2,721 deaths with a further 4,852 wounded. The troops were returned to Egypt.
CAESAR THE BULLDOG
The NZEF needed reinforcements. In early 1916, the 4th Battalion of the NZ Rifle Brigade took part in a parade down Queen Street, Auckland before they embarked overseas to Egypt. ‘A’ company marched down the street waving to the cheering crowd, they were joined by their mascot, an American bulldog called Caesar.
Dogs were employed in various roles during the First World War. Firstly, they provided much needed companionship during the trying times of war. However, they also served practical purposes much as being message carriers, guard sentries, pack dogs and search and rescue animals.
Rifleman Thomas Samuel Tooman was Caesar’s handler. They travelled together to Egypt, arriving in February 1916. Upon arriving, Rifleman Tooman was assigned to become an ambulance driver, while Caesar was trained as a Red Cross dog.
Red Cross dogs were trained to locate wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Using their highly developed sense of smell the dogs could locate soldiers much more efficiently than their human counterparts. If the wounded soldier was unconscious, the dogs were trained to bring back a cap or a piece of clothing to the rescue party, alerting them to the wounded — before leading stretcher-bearers back to the injured party. The dogs were even trained to differentiate between the uniforms of the allied forces and the enemy to avoid putting the rescue parties in any further danger.
Red Cross dogs were equipped with harnesses that contained medical supplies such as bandages and water. If the soldier was slightly damaged, they would be able to patch themselves up and the dog would guide them back to the trenches. The harness also contained writing materials, so if the soldier couldn’t move he could inform the rescuers of his current situation, such as the severity of the injury and if there were any enemies nearby.
THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME
In September 1916, Caesar, along with Rifleman Tooman were sent to the western front to take part in what became known as the Battle of the Somme. The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st of July 1916 along the Somme River in central Somme, France. The conflict continued for 140 days. Over 3 million men fought in the battle, with over 1 million casualties. The Battle of the Somme became one of the most bloody battles in human history and described by the soldiers that were there as ‘hell on earth’.
Rifleman Thomas Tooman and Caesar reported to the NZ headquarters Casualty Clearing Station. The trench warfare and muddy battlefield of the Somme proved difficult terrain for a dog with short legs like Caesar. Other obstacles for the canine included a battlefield littered with barbed-wire and craters left behind from exploding shells.
Nevertheless, Caesar became responsible for locating at least 16 severely wounded men on the Somme battlefield that would have perished without the help of the fearless bulldog. In the book The Work of the Red Cross Dog on the Battlefield written by Oliver Hyde, he describes the invaluable role the search and rescue dogs played in bringing hope to the wounded, “To the forlorn and despairing wounded soldier, the coming of the Red Cross dog is that of a messenger of hope. Here at last is help, here is first aid. [The soldier] knows that medical assistance cannot be far away, and will be summoned by every means in the dog’s power. As part of the great Red Cross army of mercy, he is beyond price.”
Sometime during his time in the Somme, Caesar scoured the battlefield and discovered a NZ soldier injured by sniper fire. As Caesar approached the wounded man, he gave Caesar a pat on the head. Just as hope was returning to the downed soldier, Caesar was shot by sniper fire — killing him.
The soldier and Caesar were later found together, dead. The soldier’s hand was still resting on the brave bulldog’s head. They were both brought to the Casualty Clearing Station and buried together.
RIFLEMAN THOMAS TOOMAN
Rifleman Thomas Tooman was devastated by the loss of his canine friend. However the battle of the Somme continued on, as did Rifleman Tooman. However in February 1917, Tooman was severely injured in a mustard gas attack which caused severe burning of his skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Thomas recovered with the help of a Volunteer Aid Detachment Nurse, Kath in the small market town of Walton-on-Thames, England. Over the course of Thomas’ recovery, he fell in love with his nurse and they eventually married.
Thomas Tooman returned home to NZ with his new wife at the end of the First World War in 1918. Tooman hung a portrait of his fallen canine comrade Caesar in the dining room in memoriam to the brave bulldog who saved so many lives — and brought joy to countless others.
In February of 2019, over 100 years after his death, Caesar was posthumously awarded the Blue Cross Medal — a medal awarded to animals that demonstrated great bravery and heroism. You can visit the National Army Museum in Waiouru to view the medal along with a fibreglass statue of NZ’s most famous four-legged war hero.
In total over the course of World War I, the NZ army lost 16,697 lives. Over the four years of conflict, World War I demanded a sacrifice of approximately 19 million human lives to achieve victory for the allies. Less spoken about is the further 9 million animal lives lost during the course of the war including dogs, horses, mules, donkeys, pigeons, camels and even cats.
LEST WE FORGET
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
A poem by Laurence Binyon.
Hey guys, Jessica here. Sorry for the late ANZAC episode, time got away from us. I hope you enjoyed this episode. It is not as detailed as we would have liked due to our inability to access the library due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Although, we tried our best with what we had.
I also wanted to talk very briefly about this really interesting video game we were reminded of while making this episode. It’s called Valiant Hearts: The Great War — it is kind of a puzzle/adventure game about the impacts of war on human consciousness and includes themes we covered in this story. Some of the game takes place during the Battle of Somme and includes a Red Cross dog as one of the main characters in the game. It is an incredibly moving story about family, bravery and sacrifice. It really is an underrated gem of a game that we would highly recommend.
Thank you and stay safe my friends.
Auckland Museum, Caesar the Anzac dog, https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/cenotaph-stories/caesar-the-anzac-dog
Wikipedia, Battle of the Somme, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Somme
Wikipedia, Military history of New Zealand during World War I, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_history_of_New_Zealand_during_World_War_I
British Red Cross, Dogs of war: the first aiders on four legs, https://blogs.redcross.org.uk/first-aid/2014/11/dogs-war-first-aiders-four-legs/
Stuff.co.nz, Ceaser the war dog honoured with medal for bravery and service, https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/113026849/ceaser-the-war-dog-honoured-with-medal-for-bravery-and-service
Stuff.co.nz, Furry heroes who saved their human friends in battle, https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/lifestyle/101639962/furry-heroes-who-saved-their-human-friends-in-battle
Papers Past, Governor’s Proclamation, https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19140806.2.7.1?end_date=06-08-1914&page=2&query=declaration+Liverpool&start_date=05-08-1914&type=ARTICLE%2CILLUSTRATION
Mirror, The 9 million unsung heroes of WW1: Dogs, horses and carrier pigeons made victory possible, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/9-million-unsung-heroes-ww1-3939895
The Guardian, For the Fallen, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/14/for-the-fallen-laurence-binyon
Auckland Museum, Rifleman Tom Tooman, https://www.aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/online-cenotaph/record/C34618
Live Science, What Is Mustard Gas?, https://www.livescience.com/39248-what-is-mustard-gas.html
Wikipedia, Arthur Foljambe, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Foljambe,_2nd_Earl_of_Liverpool
Youtube, Valiant Hearts E3 Trailer [US], https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP8q5F6dFqQ