Real-life stories of animals and their amazing bond with humans

Prince finds master amid the gunfire

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When Jimmy Brown, from Ireland, joined the British Army at the outbreak of war in 1914 he decided to move his wife, Colleen, and dog, Prince, to a house in Hammersmith, West London, to make it easier for him to see them while on leave from the fighting in France. Jimmy’s regiment was one of the first to get involved in the early fighting and, naturally, both Colleen and Prince, who doted on his master, missed him while he was away in battle.

After a while Jimmy was given a short period of leave which he gratefully spent in London. Quickly, however, the time came for Jimmy to return to the Front, and Prince seemed particularly upset by his master’s departure. Indeed, for three days the usually lively animal refused to eat any food. He lacked energy and moped around in a dejected way.

Then, just as Colleen thought Prince’s behaviour couldn’t get any worse, he disappeared. Collenn was very worried both for Prince and her husband. She knew what dreadful hardships Jimmy was enduring on the battlefield, and how the thought of his dog’s friendship and companionship was one of the things that kept him going. Now, that faithful friend Prince had vanished. For ten days Colleen hunted high and low for the dog, but he was nowhere to be seen. Finally, she realized she could put off the inevitable no longer. Although it would make his already tough existence even harder, she resolved to tell Jimmy.

And so, with a heavy heart, Colleen wrote to Jimmy in France explaining that although she had looked everywhere, his beloved dog Prince had disappeared. She added that Jimmy could some comfort from the fact that Prince’s behaviour and refusal of food showed the pet’s devotion to his master.

But when when Jimmy finally received Colleen’s sad letter in his trench at Armentières in northern France, he could have been forgiven a wry smile. For there, at his feet, watching him as he read his wife’s letter was none other than Prince himself. Somehow, in a way that Jimmy could barely imagine, the dog had made one of the most incredible journeys any animal has ever attempted.

First Prince had left the family’s new home in West London and walked the 70 or so miles to the English Channel. Then, given that the collieterrier cross could hardly have swum the Channel, he must have smuggled himself on board a ship taking supplies or troops to the war.

First World war prince dog
On the front line; somehow Prince made it to his master in France.

Once in France, however, Prince’s trek was far from over. The French coast was some 60 miles away from where Jimmy was fighting, and much of the journey was through war-torn, dangerous countryside. Battles were being fought, bullets were flying and shells were exploding – some filled with gas.

Despite all this Prince found his way through the blood and mud of the countryside to pick out Jimmy from 500,000 other British troops on the frontline. No wonder Jimmy could hardly believe his eyes when the muddy little dog appeared in his trench, or that a relieved Colleen gasped in astonishment when she received the news from Jimmy.

But the evidence was sitting before Jimmy’s eyes―the faithful dog who had defied the horrors of war to track down his missing owner.

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