Troops in India with Their Pet Dog

This week’s photograph is a delightful photograph that I believe was taken in India between the wars. It depicts a small group of soldiers, relaxed and off duty and posing with one of their pets, a small dog:SKMBT_C36416062110411_0001 - Copy (3)The dog looks to be some sort of mongrel rather than a pure breed, but it is wearing a collar and seems very relaxed in the arms of one of the group so is presumably a well-loved companion to these men:SKMBT_C36416062110411_0001 - Copy (3) - CopyIt was often said that British soldiers made friends with the dogs and children of anywhere they were posted and this seems to have been especially the case in India where one author in the 1890s observed, “as a rule, the canine breed comes in for a large share of attention and patronage from British troops.” Perhaps it was because dogs and children had no fear or hatred of the soldiers that they took them to their hearts so readily, both treating British soldiers with a benign curiosity and growing friendship in a way in which many adults of native populations did not.

The men in this photograph, despite being off duty continue to wear their sun helmets, both the older Wolseley pattern:SKMBT_C36416062110411_0001 - Copy (5) - CopyAnd the newer, lighter but more bulky ‘Bombay bowlers’:SKMBT_C36416062110411_0001 - Copy (4) - CopyThe 1930s Woodbine’s guide for troops going to India warns soldiers:

Don’t go into the blazing sunshine without your Topee or Helmet, whether it be Summer of Winter time, the Summer especially, between the hours of 9-a.m. and 5-p.m.

It is interesting to note that all the men wear collarless shirts, most with their sleeves rolled up and khaki drill trousers or shorts, except for one man on the extreme right who has a startlingly white pair of shorts on:SKMBT_C36416062110411_0001 - Copy (6) - CopyQuite why he is wearing these is a mystery, but they are certainly distinctive! The men are standing in a courtyard in front of what appear to be quite elderly brick built barrack huts:SKMBT_C36416062110411_0001 - Copy (7) - CopyIt is hard to be sure, but I suspect that these would be at one of the older military cantonments in India, the buildings themselves erected in the Victorian era and still seeing service fifty years later when this photograph was taken.

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