Heroic Parachuting Dogs of D-Day

The paradogs, short for parachuting dogs, of the 13th Battalion became famous in history for having played a critical role in liberating France during the D-Day invasion.

Bing, WWII parachuting dog

Six year old Betty Fetch and her family from England had to give up their dog Brian because they could not afford to feed him during the Second World War. The two year old Alsatian collie cross was given to the Army in 1944 to serve his country.

Brian, named Bing during his military career, was trained at the Army War Dog Training School near Potter's Bar in Hertfordshire. To prepare for D-Day, the 13th Parachute Battalion started an experiment to train dogs to jump from planes so they could accompany the soldiers on ground to perform tasks such as locating mines, keeping watch and warning about enemies. Bing and two Alsatians named Monty and Ranee were chosen to be trained. These three would number among Britain's parachuting dogs during the war, with Ranee being the only female paradog in the war.

The body of an Alsatian is slim so parachutes designed to carry bicycles were used. To make it easier to get the dogs to jump out of the plane, they weren't given any food beforehand. The trainer would then use a big piece of meat to encourage the dogs to leave the plane - the trainer would jump first with the meat and the dog was to follow. Ranee was the first to jump. According to Lance Corporal Ken Bailey, the trainer:

"After my chute developed, I turned to face the line of flight; the dog was 30 yards away and slightly above. The chute had opened and was oscillating slightly. Ranee looked somewhat bewildered but showed no sign of fear. I called out and she immediately turned in my direction and wagged her tail vigorously. The dog touched down 80 feet before I landed. She was completely relaxed, making no attempt to anticipate or resist the landing, rolled over once, scrambled to her feet and stood looking round. I landed 40 feet from her and immediately ran to her, released her and gave her the feed."

The dogs learned the routine to jump, land and eat. They even appeared to enjoy their work and sometimes jumped out of the plane without any coaxing.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, three planes carrying the 13th Battalion headed to France. Each plane held 20 men and one dog - Baily was with Bing. Unlike training, heavy anti-aircraft fire raked the planes. After Bailey sprang out of the hatch, Bing turned around and holed up in the back of the plane. The jump master on board had to unplug his radio equipment, catch the dog and toss him out of the aircraft. Before Bing could touch ground his parachute got caught in a tree leaving him hanging in the branches. It took two hours for the men to find and rescue him. Bing had two deep cuts in his face, most likely from German mortar fire.

The dogs proved to be very useful on the battlefields and were credited with saving hundreds of lives. Sadly, Monty was severely wounded and Ranee was never seen again after she was separated from her battalion. A few months before the war's end, Bing parachuted into western Germany, from where he marched to the Baltic Sea.

Brian (Bing) awarded the Dickin Medal

At the end of the war Bing was returned to the Fetch family where he resumed civilian life as Brian. In 1947, he was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, the UK's highest honor for animals that have displayed "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units."

In 1955, at the age of 13, Brian passed away of natural causes. He was buried in a cemetery of honor for animals northeast of London. A true-to-life replica of the former paradog is on display at the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces Museum in Duxford.