World War Two
Following World War One the RAVC underwent rapid demobilisation
and as mechanisation progressed the RAVC reduced in size.
In 1938 the Army Veterinary School in Aldershot closed after
At the outbreak of World War Two there were 85 officers
(59 of whom were in India) and 105 soldiers, this increased
over the course of the war to a total of 519 officers and
3,939 other ranks. A Even with the increased mechanisation
of World War 2 horses and mules were still essential means
of transport, most notably in Palestine and the Italian
campaign where terrain made it impossible for vehicles.
In 1942 the strength of military animals was 6,500 horses,
10,000 mules and 1,700 camels. The RAVC also had a presence
in Greece, Ertirea and Syria and, as well as pack transport,
were responsible for the local provision of livestock for
slaughter, meat inspection and the rearing of livestock.
The Italian campaign was the only one where RAVC units operated
in the dual role of evacuating animal casualties and issuing
replacements. In addition to the mules shipped over from
North Africa and the Middle East there were almost 11,000
mules purchased in Sicily and Southern Italy. Battle casualties
among mules in Italy were higher than had been anticipated,
whilst losses from infection and contagious diseases were
As well as horses and mules, in Burma General Wingate also
used bullocks, which were utilised as pack animals but were
also ‘meat on the hoof’. Elephants were also
used as transport and forest clearance. Because of the nature
of the campaign in Burma, animals receiving serious battle
wounds could not be evacuated with the result that many
that might have recovered had to be shot.
In 1942 the Army Veterinary and Remount Service became
responsible for the procurement of dogs for all services
and the War Dog Training School was established.
In the aftermath of World War Two, the RAVC was involved
in many countries, notably Germany, Austria, Greece, Burma
and Malaya, in the disposal of surplus animals, the prevention
of the spread of disease and animal husbandry. The RAVC
also required a permanent depot and moved to the old Remount
Depot at Melton Mowbray in 1946, where it remains to this
day as the Defence Animal Centre.
The RAVC did not fall to pre-war levels as World War Two
had highlighted the role of dogs, which took over from horses
and mules as the main military animal (the last operational
pack transport unit was eventually disbanded in Hong Kong
in 1976 although recent operations in Afghanistan have questioned
the need for pack transport in difficult terrain). In Malaya
and Borneo, during the 1950s and 1960s, dogs worked as tracker
dogs seeking out insurgents. In Northern Ireland dogs have
worked as arms and explosive search dogs seeking out terrorist
arms and explosives, a role they are also carrying out in
Iraq, and in Hong Kong dogs were trained to detect and apprehend
illegal immigrants. However the main role is still one of
protection reducing the number of soldiers needed for guard
duties. The RAVC has permanent dog units in Northern Ireland,
England, Germany and Cyprus.
The RAVC is one of the smallest Corps in the British Army
yet provides invaluable support to the Army’s animals
and serves worldwide with them today.