German Dog became RCN Mascot in WW2
As a follow-up to the story “John Beer’s Adventure off Peru during WWII“, I recently connected with the daughter of Charles Reginald Boggs, from Halifax, who was also serving on the Prince Henry at that same time in April 1941. Diane came upon my story here, and she recalled her father’s comments about the day of the burning and sinking of the two German ships. In fact, he recorded a bit of the action with his personal movie camera on 16mm film, as the crew and officers captured and took aboard the Germans from their escaping lifeboats.
Diane recalls from viewing the film that the Canadians treated the Germans well as they brought them onboard, handing them blankets, hot drinks and cigarettes. Hopefully, the Canadian Military Archives will soon be converting the reel to digital and putting it online.
Also among Reginald Boggs’ naval memorabilia was a news clipping of Messdeck News, a column in a Halifax newspaper during the war, written by Annie Coade (aka Jessie Coade). She provided the public with her own interesting naval journalism. The clipping from November 8th, 1941, features a photo of a German Shepherd dog and his new master Lieutenant W. Gage. My father also had a photo of a German Shepherd in his collection of photos. Well, we were able to solve the mystery of why this dog was on the ship. Here is an excerpt from the transcribed clipping:
Surpassing in news importance the old “man bites dog” tale is the story of a native of Germany who not only had the run of a Canadian ship, but is the special pal of every officer and man on board. The “German” is a police dog call Peetsa who was captured along with the crew of an enemy freighter and the only one of the company to escape internment.
Peetsa was the mascot of the freighter “Hermonthis” out of Hamburg, which with three other ships of her type were lying in the harbour of Callao, seaport of Lima, Peru. A Canadian ship had a veritable “field day” when the enemy ships tried to escape the harbour, and after much excitement, a lifeboat filled with prisoners gave over its crew. Peetsa, a scared little puppy was the last aboard and, at the risk of his life, Able Seaman Ed Suffern managed to get him on board via a garbage pail.
An enemy Captain, bound for an interment camp, asked that his dog be taken care of. A dog of any country is still a dog, so the pup became mascot of the Royal Canadian Navy.
Not long after when the ship was at a Canadian port, she was compared to the famous dog called Rin-tin-tin. An extraordinary chapter in the life of Peetsa brings forth the fact that she was born in Peru and her seven “babies” saw daylight when the ship touched Peru again for the first time since her arrival on board! A twenty-hour stoppage at that.
Peetsa shows her appreciation to the Canadians who adopted her by showing off a clever trick when asked – and by formally taking care of a white kitten that belonged to one of the messes. In the trick, her foster master Lieutenant William Gage places a package of cigarettes high on a shelf in the wardroom.
Peetsa is nonchalantly curled up in her chair. Suddenly Lt. Gage snaps “roust” and, in a flash, Peetsa is up over the obstacles and brings the packet, unharmed, back to her trainer. She has earned her spot on board.
- Thanks to Diane for connecting with us and adding more richness and insight into this piece of Canadian history. And who doesn’t like a happy story about a dog?!
- Jessie Coade was the mother of Peter Coade, a retired meteorologist with CBC Radio One.