Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 14/8/2009 (4065 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Gander the dauntless war dog is where he belongs now, forever beside the soldiers he served as mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada.
You'll see Gander's name if you look closely at the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall, to be unveiled in Ottawa Saturday in a dedication ceremony. The memorial sits in the shadows of Parliament Hill.
Canadian Hong Kong veterans made certain that Gander's name was etched on the memorial among the 1,975 men and two women who fought for Canada against the Japanese forces that invaded Hong Kong in December 1941.
The soldiers, who lived in squalid prisoner-of-war camps after the fall of the island, had one unwavering policy: They shared any food that came into their possession. In the same spirit, they wanted Gander to share in their public remembrance, a six-metre high concrete wall encased in granite.
Gander, a massive Newfoundland dog, fought at their side and died nobly in battle. The dog seized a live grenade in its jaws and ran toward the Japanese lines. Gander died in the explosion, but saved the lives of several wounded Canadian soldiers.
The Hong Kong contingent consisted of soldiers drawn from the Quebec-based Royal Rifles and the Winnipeg Grenadiers. They were the first Canadian infantry units to see combat in the Second World War.
When he was growing up in Belledune, N.B., Andy Flanagan often heard his father Andrew "Ando" Flanagan speak of Gander's exploits. Ando Flanagan enlisted in the winter of 1940, and was transferred with other Royal Rifles recruits to Newfoundland where they were stationed at Botwood, near the town of Gander.
The soldiers first encountered the dog, so large it was often mistaken for a bear, while in the town, Andy Flanagan says in a memoir about his dad, which he passed on to Canwest News Service.
The dog was called Pal, and was a great favourite among the children. But Pal got in trouble when he scratched a child's face with his paw. It was an accident, Pal was only greeting the child with his usual exuberance. Pal's owner, worried he would be forced to put down the dog, gave him to the soldiers as their mascot.
The soldiers changed his name to Gander.
"Gander quickly adapted to military life," writes Flanagan. "He was elevated to sergeant faster than any enlisted man. On parade, he proudly marched up front, wearing his sergeant's stripes next to the regimental badge, attached to his harness."
Gander accompanied the Royal Rifles when they sailed to Hong Kong in the fall of 1941.
When the invasion of Hong Kong began the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, Gander was ready to fight.
"Gander showed no fear of guns or bombs," writes Flanagan.
-- Canwest News Service
Facts on Gander
Gander was a Newfoundland dog.
The dog's name will be unveiled today on the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall in a dedication ceremony at Parliament Hill.
It served as the mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada, who fought with the Winnipeg Grenadiers against the Japanese in Hong Kong.
Gander died fighting alongside Canadian troops when the Japanese invaded in December 1941.
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