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Shirley Williams, a puppy, and the war

2017 November 12

The Great Cat and Dog Massacre cover

As I explained in The Great Cat and Dog Massacre Shirley Williams, the latest Liberal Democratic now recently withdrawn from the House of Lords, had written about animals in her own autobiography, Climbing the Bookshelves. This includes how, as a teenager in the war in 1944, she had “notched up a resentment” towards her pacifist mother, Vera Brittain. Although her little fox terrier was highly bred and expensive the little dog had panicked whenever there was an air raid. Shirley had begged, pleaded and shouted but her mother put the “terrified puppy” to sleep.

I bumped into Shirley Williams recently in a congested way where we were standing back from London traffic and I mentioned my book to her. Interestingly then and there she remembered the account of over 70 years ago as an incident she was clearly likely to recall ! As I wrote to her of my book she recalled how it was that wartime animals were in a much overlooked subject.

I have also discovered when finding the stories of now older people that many have recalled how in their childhood wartime they had remembered the deaths of their animal friends. As one had written to me decades later “…my little brother and I crept into my Granddad’s shed, strictly against the rules, and saw [the canary]Joey’s Cage hanging empty amongst my granddad’s raffia he tied his plants up with. We didn’t ask.”

As I note in The Great Cat and Dog Massacre many people have remembered their old times with animals. As one woman has described “ My Daddy gave me The photo book of pretty pets for Christmas 1940 when I was six. I still have it… The quality of my life has been enhanced by animals.”

For details of memories of people today who recall their animals’ treatment during the Second World War see my latest book.


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