Following on from my last post, I’m going to continue with the wartime theme.

I’d always assumed that pedigree dog breeding and showing had been forbidden during war. So many times I’d read in various breed books of the tight rationing of food and about whole kennels being ‘put down’ simply because there was nothing to feed them. However, this doesn’t appear to be entirely true.

Breeding certainly did continue during the First World War and Kennel Gazettes from 1914 right through to July 1918 continued to list registrations, name changes and transfers.

Obviously the war halted the progress of the fancy and it was responsible for a setback in breeding (a setback dangerously threatened breeds such as the Clydesdale Terrier, the English White Terrier and the Toy Bulldog never recovered from) however, a number of kennels obviously found a way to continue their breeding operations, even in limited numbers; the toll taken always appears to have fallen heaviest upon the larger breeds.

Lydia Ingleton in her excellent book on the breed, The Popular Chow, gives a wonderful account of the trials and tribulations of the dog scene during the Second World War. It certainly puts our modern day gripes and grumbles into perspective!

“All kennels were reduced and many were dispersed. Only a very little breeding was done, enough to keep the breed going, and good stock naturally ran low. In any case, few could have afforded to keep many dogs, for horseflesh (of the green dyed variety) and other meat considered unfit for human consumption cost as much as 2s6d to 2s8d per Ib – nor was it always easy to obtain.

“Showing suffered as much, if not more, than breeding. There was no petrol for cars, and weekday travel, with the overcrowded trains and buses, would have been neither patriotic nor popular.

“Because of all the difficulties, most of the breed clubs were suspended.

“The British Chow Chow Club did, however, contrive and, sometimes in the face of great odds, as will presently be shown to hold Members’ shows in London on a Sunday. The proceeds of these went to the Red Cross, and the club is proud to hold a diploma signed by HRH The Duke of Gloucester for collecting £200.

“I should add that all the prize money was paid out of the pockets of the committee, and to raise further funds we used to collect various articles and sell them at auction. Often the things given were of controlled price, such as tomatoes or other foodstuffs, so we had to think up ways of getting around this!

“For instance, we could pack, say, a pound of tomatoes in an impressive gilt basket and then auction the lot for perhaps 25s!

“We were allowed some petrol for these shows, and the car had to display a Red Cross Card, which was supplied by a special department then at the Kennel Club.

“The Kennel Club was not unaffected by the strange and touching friendliness that grows in a people sharing a common calamity. On the Monday morning after a show, the late Mr Croxton-Smith, then in charge, would ring me up to find out if we had got through to our show, and home again, safely.

“An account of one day will give an idea of what it could mean to hold a wartime show. It was, in fact, the last Sunday Show the British Chow Chow Club held and it was in Holborn Hall.

“We were on our way, driving through Wembley, when the sirens yelled. Not a person, nor a dog or a cat, could be seen anywhere. At first it was deadly silent. Then, as we progressed, we could hear the crack of guns: worse was to come, the cr-crump and rumble of bombs were not far away. Kings Cross, that Sunday, was getting a fair share. We waited, and when things seemed a little quieter, went on to Holborn Hall.

“There were not more than a dozen people there. But we had a good collection of articles to sell – as well as our dogs to show – and having arrived there we felt we must make the best of things. What was particularly unpleasant was that the siren was practically on top of us, and the deafening, screaming noise of the Alert, the All Clear, and then the Alert again was more than we could bear!

“Well, it wasn’t long before a large Police Sergeant came from the Police Station and asked for me, as the secretary. His tone was bullying as he demanded, ‘did I think I was doing the right thing in keeping people in the Hall when bombs were falling half a mile away?’

“I felt nervous, and my tummy turned over. Even while he glared at me, waiting for my answer, we heard more bombs falling.

“Words seemed to be put into my mouth.

“‘Look here,’ I said, ‘do you realise this is a Red Cross Show, and funds are needed above all? A soldier does not turn his back on his duty and neither do I. I have undertaken to run this show and I intend to go through with it. Everyone in this Hall is free to leave: I am not persuading them to stay.’

“I know the fat sergeant had only been doing his duty, and now he said, a shade grudgingly, ‘All right, ma’am. Should you need me, you know where I am.’

“Fortunately, we did not need him. And incidentally, none of those who came to support the show did leave the Hall.

“It was an afternoon of anxiety – I will not pretend that it was not – but we sold everything we had to sell.

“After the War the British Chow Chow Club was among the first to apply for challenge certificates, and we were, I believe, one of the first clubs to have them granted.”

Who but the British would consider holding a dog show during an Air Raid?

So, without the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, these stalwarts of the dog show world still managed to keep things going even in the face of a very uncertain future. Oh, to have a few more ‘Lydia Ingleton’ types around today to shake things up!

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