Military mascot Freda the dog

Freda, 5 Battalion, New Zealand Rifle Brigade

Freda, the Harlequin Great Dane mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, was stationed with the Brigade at Cannock Chase, near Brocton in England. The 5 (Reserve) Battalion had been at Brocton since September 1917, and Freda was probably acquired there.

Another story is that Freda was picked up and adopted as the brigade mascot in France, accompanying the unit back to Cannock Chase in 1918. According to a local historian, Freda had provided warmth and companionship to New Zealand soldiers amidst the death and destruction of the Western Front battlefields.

While this story may not be true, the men in camp faced an equally dangerous enemy when the global influenza pandemic arrived in October 1918. The Cannock Chase War Cemetery is now the resting place for about 50 members of the brigade who 'died of disease' between late October and late November 1918. Freda also died about this time and was buried at Cannock Chase. Members of the brigade erected a headstone in her memory.

For the next 20 years, townspeople of nearby Brereton kept Freda's grave tidy, laying crosses and flowers each year. After it was vandalised, the Friends of Cannock Chase laid a new marble headstone in her honour in 1964. The headstone was renewed again in 2001, and the grave remains a feature of historical tours. In 2010 Freda inspired the community's Armistice Day activities. Working dogs and their owners were invited to a special service at her grave to celebrate the loyalty and service of such dogs.

Freda's collar was returned to New Zealand and is held at the National Army Museum at Waiōuru.

Community contributions

6 comments have been posted about Military mascot Freda the dog

What do you know?

Robert Clay

Posted: 08 Jul 2016

Just to say I was contacted by Peter Millett, co-author of The Anzac Puppy and was able to take photos of my original article in the Staffordshire Advertiser and forward them to him. This shows Fred Smith at the time he and his friends found the original gravestone, and the old much weathered stone that marked the site. It was much improved at the time with the addition of some new stones. Also some time later a marble headstone was put in place, and I believe the original stone shipped back to New Zealand for the Army Museum. One thing's for sure, Freda and the New Zealand Rifles will live on in memory both at home here on the other side of the world. :-) Bob Clay

Peter Millett

Posted: 15 Feb 2014

Bob the name of the ex soldier was Fred Smith.

aanensen

Posted: 29 Jun 2010

My grandfather, Albert Aanensen, was stationed on Cannock Chase, met my grandmother and never returned to NZ.I have second cousins living in Levin and Taupo. Several years ago The Levin RSO commisioned a soldiers plaque for my grandfathers grave in Cannock Cemetry.

Richard Pursehouse

Posted: 28 Dec 2009

Freda cane up to Cannock Chase Reserve Centre around October 1917. She was NOT a Dalmation, but a Harlequin Great Dane. She died December 1918, and her handler was Captain Magnay

Mike Marsh

Posted: 01 May 2009

I have recently taken a photograph of Freda's gravestone. If anyone would like to see it just click on this link ... http://www.flickr.com/photos/30248153@N06/3488682976/ Mike Marsh Stone, Staffordshire

Bob Clay

Posted: 19 Dec 2008

In 1964 I was a junior reporter on the local newspaper, Staffordshire Advertiser. I was contacted by a New Zealander first world war veteran (whose name I have sadly forgotten). Together we drove up onto Cannock Chase and after a bit of searching, he found the dog's grave which was fairly overgrown. I did a story on this for the paper, and following that, the County Council took up the matter and cleared and made the gravesite tidy. Just thought I'd say this, in case anybody knows who that ex-soldier was. Bob Clay