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100 years of 'Dogs of War' photos at Bishopsgate Institute nearly ended up in dustbin

PUBLISHED: 18:22 10 March 2015 | UPDATED: 20:00 11 March 2015

August 19, 1916... Corps pet St Bernard named Hissy and Terrier named Jack with Staff Sgt Len Nusse

August 19, 1916... Corps pet St Bernard named Hissy and Terrier named Jack with Staff Sgt Len Nusse

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Pictures of dogs of war have come to light for a unique exhibition launched this-evening of photographs going back 100 years that almost ended up in the dustbin.

Off to war, August 1, 1915... soldiers behind seated civilians and two family pet dogsOff to war, August 1, 1915... soldiers behind seated civilians and two family pet dogs

The Dogs of the First World War exhibition which opens at the Bishopsgate Institute in the City of London explores the role canines played as companions and workers during the 1914-18 Great War.

It was only through a press photographer’s intervention that saved these snapshots from history being thrown away.

Libby Hall, now 73, collected old photographs of dogs for 40 years, between 1966 and 2006, acquiring thousands of images for what is possibly the largest number of canine pictures ever gathered by one person.

209th Norfolk Field Co, Royal Engineers, 34th Div, and their company mascot209th Norfolk Field Co, Royal Engineers, 34th Div, and their company mascot

“My collecting began by chance,” Libby explains. “I was a press photographer and discovered that a local junk shop in Dalston doing house clearances was simply throwing away old photographs.

“I persuaded them to let me have them, really just to save them from the dustbin.

“I have lived with dogs all my life and began to be intrigued by the photographs that had dogs in them.”

Officers, warrant officers and staff sergeants, Army Service Corps, c1917Officers, warrant officers and staff sergeants, Army Service Corps, c1917

The collection grew over 40 years which seemed to turn into “a testimony to the relationship between dogs and people”, being included in photographs as important members of the family.

“Old photographs by then become ‘collectable’ and I no longer had to worry about them being thrown away,” American-born Libby recalls. “But I still went on searching and become more fascinated about where they had they been taken and what was happening.”

Occasionally there were dates and names that gave clues to the circumstances behind the pictures and postcards.

British Army messenger dog, May 19, 1918British Army messenger dog, May 19, 1918

She learned more about various formats—cartes de visite, stereos, cabinet prints, and so on.

“But in the end, the dates didn’t matter,” she added. “The dogs were the same dogs whether in 1850 or 1920.”

Her exhibition at the Bishopsgate Institute at 230 Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street station, runs until July 26, free admission.

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