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

PUBLISHED: 20:11 11 March 2015 | UPDATED: 20:11 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 of photographs going back 100 years that almost ended up in the dustbin.

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

It was only through a press photographer’s intervention that stopped a junk shop in Dalston in the 1960s throwing old picture-albums away that began a 40-year journey snapping up old photographs.

Now an exhibition of Dogs of the First World War has opened at the Bishopsgate Institute which explores the role canines played as companions and workers during the 1914-18 conflict.

Libby Hall, now 73, acquired thousands of images between 1966 and 2006, for what is possibly the largest number of canine pictures ever gathered by one person.

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

“My collecting began by chance,” Libby explains. “I was a press photographer and discovered a local junk shop in Kingsland Road, in the Saturday street market known as ‘The Waste’, was doing house clearances and 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.”

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

The collection grew over 40 years which seemed to turn into “a testimony to the relationship between dogs and people”, with the pets 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,” Libby recalls. “But I still went on searching and become more fascinated about where they had been taken and what was happening.”

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

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

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


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