An RAF police dog demonstration, circus skills and a realistic caving experience were just some of the fun attractions on offer at this year's Stickney summer festival held at William Lovell Academy.

Read more: http://www.bostontarget.co.uk/pictures/Stickney-Summer-Festival-picture-gallery/pictures-27448471-detail/pictures.html#ixzz3ghaQSE9h 



It is with great sadness that last night Buster passed peacefully away. He served his country. He served in three separate wars. Including Afghanistan. He won the Crufts friends for Life Award in 2012. Buster was the mascot of the RAF Police. And was a true character. He retired a military hero 2011. You are at peace now......at Rainbow Bridge. ....and thoughts to his handler Flight Sergeant 'Will' Barrow who also cared for him in his retirement.


Buster the Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives, Passes Away

17 July 2015

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Buster, the Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives, Passes Away

It is with great sadness that Flight Sergeant Will Barrow from the RAF Police announces the death of his retired Arms and Explosive Search Dog, Buster.

Buster, a 13 year old Springer Spaniel passed away at the Barrow’s home in Lincolnshire where he had been enjoying retirement with handler Will, plus two canine companions.

Buster completed five tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq and it was his exceptional efforts in these austere environments for which he will be remembered. It was the saving of countless lives by searching out IEDs that saw the honour of official lifetime mascot of the RAF Police bestowed upon Buster.


Flight Sergeant Barrow documented his experiences with Buster into a best-selling book and as recently as this week, the inseparable pair were out promoting Buster’s service endeavours at a local school where they’d been invited to hand out end of year reports to the children.

The RAF Police are arranging a special event to celebrate RAF Police Military Working Dogs which will give the Force an opportunity to remember those special companions that have saved thousands of lives and served so admirably. Details will follow.

RIP Buster: The sniffer dog 'who saved a thousand lives'

Sniffer dog on duty

As an Arms and Explosive Search Dog, Buster is said to have saved "a thousand lives" in warzones around the world.

The springer spaniel has passed away at his handler's home in Lincolnshire, saysthe RAF.

Before retiring to live with Flight Sergeant Will Barrow, the 13-year-old dog had served in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq - sniffing out bombs and booby traps before they could kill British service personnel.

Image captionBuster and his medals

He's said to have completed more tours than any other military dog.

As well as giving advanced warning of suicide bombers and hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices), Buster also helped cheer up the troops, says his handler.

"Many's the time I'd find some of the soldiers on the cot beds with him, just chatting away. They felt they could confide in him and it wouldn't be going anywhere else."

He also made friends with local Afghans when he went out on patrol.

"We soon had a long train of children in tow - like a canine Pied Piper, Buster drew in his crowd and entertained them," says Flt Sgt Barrow.

A military dog
Image captionSpaniels served with many British units abroad

To reward his years of hard work, Buster was given the honour of becoming the official lifetime mascot of the RAF Police.

Towards the end of his life Buster had quite bad arthritis in his legs, and Flt Sgt Barrow thinks the dog might also have suffered the same mental strains as human combat veterans. He suspects Buster could even have had a form of post traumatic stress from all his time spent under enemy fire.

In retirement Buster didn't "like fireworks or thunder, but at the time, he just got on with it, same as all of us".

Many tributes have been paid to Buster on 

But the final word should go to Flt Sgt Barrow.

"He saved my life every day we were together. I owe him so much."

Success for RAF Brize Norton at police dog trials


Saturday, July 11th 2015 08:00

Corporal Oli Griggs and Air Dog Ethel came runners-up

The first RAF Police Dog Trials in five years were held at the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in Lincolnshire this week.

The competition's been put on hold in recent years due to operational commitments.

RAF Police Military Working Dogs and their handlers from across the UK fought it out to be 'top dog' in front of the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford.

The trials follow months of evaluations by the Provost Marshal’s Dog Inspectors, with only 12 patrol dogs and their handlers making the grade to compete at these national finals.

Flight Sergeant Steven Hancox, Provost Marshal Dog Inspector, led those: "This year is particularly special as we haven’t had the trials for a long time.

"It takes a lot of hard work to be selected to compete, so this event means an awful lot to everyone taking part. To win it is truly special."

RAF Brize Norton took two of these slots with Corporals Robert Horsfall and Oli Griggs.

Having performed earlier in the year at Crufts, Corporal Griggs and his pooch, Air Dog Ethel, were used to performing in front of crowds.

Three days worth of heats saw the dogs and their handlers put through their paces in three different disciplines - wind scent exercises, obedience and obstacles plus criminal workouts.

Competitors were whittled down to five for the final.

In the end, it was Corporal Stacey Graham and Air Dog Demon, from RAF Coningsby, who took the coveted top spot as champions.

Corporal Oli Griggs from RAF Brize Norton was runner-up with Air Dog Ethel.

They also scooped the award for the best criminal workout with Ethel displaying some powerful manoeuvres in the arena.

Corporal Griggs said: "I’m absolutely chuffed and over the moon, I couldn’t really have asked for better.

"She performed absolutely amazingly today, unfortunately the heat got to her in the arena but her criminal workout was flawless, absolutely flawless – she was so good."

Corporal Sam Plant from RAF Waddington took third place.


First RAF Police Dog Trials For Five Years

07 July 2015


In the heat of the Lincolnshire sun, RAF Police Military Working Dogs and their handlers from across the UK have been fighting it out to determine who is ‘top dog’.

A Judge Watches Closely

Royal Air Force College Cranwell provided the prestigious backdrop for the Military Working Dog Trials, an event that has not taken place for five years due to operational commitments. With an audience that included the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, the pressure was certainly on for the competitors.

Cpl Dean Dixon and Baco

The trials are the culmination of months of technical evaluation carried out across the UK by the Provost Marshal’s Dog Inspectors, with only 12 patrol dogs and their handlers making the grade to compete at these national finals.

Flight Sergeant Steven Hancox, Provost Marshal Dog Inspector, has been up and down the country since February leading the technical evaluations, he said: “This year is particularly special as we haven’t had the trials for a long time. It takes a lot of hard work to be selected to compete, so this event means an awful lot to everyone taking part. To win it is truly special.”

Three days worth of heats saw the dogs and their handlers put through their paces in three different disciplines - wind scent exercises, obedience and obstacles plus criminal workouts. The outcome of these heats whittled the 12The Country’s Top 3. L-R – Cpl Oli Griggs with Ethel, Cpl Stacey Graham with Demon and Cpl Sam Plant with Resicompetitors down to five for the final.

In the arena, each pair set aside their nerves and exemplified the special bond that a dog and its handler shares and spectators were left in no doubt of their professionalism.

Following the months of preparation and the pressure of the finals, it was Corporal Stacey Graham and Air Dog Demon, stationed at RAF Coningsby, who took the coveted top spot as champions. Corporal Oli Griggs from RAF Brize Norton was runner-up with Corporal Sam Plant from RAF Waddington taking third place.

A clearly delighted Corporal Graham said: “It feels fantastic! Being UK Champion is literally the one thing I’ve wanted since being on dogs – I’m really happy. I just burst out crying when my name was called and I heard all the cheers. I was massively overwhelmed - I still am!”

The RAF Police took the opportunity to present a host of other military working dog related trophies at the awards ceremony. The recipients of these awards were identified by the Provost Marshal Dog Inspectors through stringent assessment over the past year.

The Champions – Cpl Stacey Graham and DemonThe Lady Kemball Trophy, for the top Arms and Explosives or Drug Detection Team was awarded to Corporal David Hoy and Air Dog Shane, based at RAFC Cranwell.

The Drissell Trophy, for the Best Police Dog Team was awarded to Corporal Shaun Perkes and Air Dog Tacko, from RAF Brize Norton.

The Vehicle Search Trophy was awarded to Corporal Emma Blackburn and Air Dog Burty, stationed at RAF Marham.

The Prestige Trophy, for the best UK Dog Section was awarded to RAF Northolt for the second year running.

The Tosh Thomas Trophy, for the Most Outstanding Contribution of the Year went to RAF St Mawgan’s Dog Section – Corporal Tim Cayless.

With his closing remarks, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said “My one question is why has it been five years since the last dog trails? Please don’t leave it so long next time!”

Editor: Sal Davidson

Photographs: Loz Platfoo

A Judge Watches Closely.

Cpl Dean Dixon and Baco.


The Country’s Top 3. L-R – Cpl Oli Griggs with Ethel, Cpl Stacey Graham with Demon and Cpl Sam Plant with Resi.

The Champions – Cpl Stacey Graham and Demon.

© MOD Crown Copyright 2015



GRRRRRrreat result! Congratulations to RAF Coningsby Police Dog Handler Cpl Stacey Graham and her dog Demon. They were the overall winners at the recent RAF Dog Trials - a first for RAF Coningsby. Well Done! 



LONDON 21 April 2015 – The trustees of the Soldiering On Through Life Trust are pleased to announce retired RAF police dog Memphis as the winner of the 2015 Soldiering On Award in the category of Canine Partner.

Nominated by the RAF Benevolent Fund, Memphis was on patrol in Afghanistan in 2011 searching for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) when he momentarily left the side of RAF Police dog handler Corporal Mick McConnell. At that moment, McConnell stepped on an IED. Even though it only partially exploded, it caused irreversible damage.

Despite almost two years of rehabilitation, McConnell is still on medication and, last year, took the decision to have his foot amputated. Once Memphis, a Columber cocker cross, retired from duty, McConnell decided to adopt him. Memphis has been instrumental in helping him cope with losing part of his leg.

"Having Memphis in Afghanistan gave me the confidence to operate in hostile conditions and combat situations. Most importantly Memphis saved lives and allowed the troops we were attached to to move safely and quickly, thus commanding the ground and helping the local populace to live their lives in safety and with freedom.

"Memphis is the reason that I get out of bed in the morning, he is a reason I get out of the house and do not hide myself away – which would be so easy to do. He brings me out of my dark places and reminds me that I need to live and not let life grind me down.

"He gave me confidence to put one foot in front of the other in Afghanistan and now gives me comfort and confidence to get out and about. He also makes me smile every day!"

Memphis was recognised at the 2015 Soldiering On Awards held Saturday 18th April at the Park Plaza Westminster in London.

Soldiering On Through Life Trust is a not-for-profit organisation that supports injured Service personnel and their families throughout their lives. It recognises the inspirational and outstanding achievements of teams or individuals through an annual awards ceremony: The Soldiering On Awards: One Awards Ceremony for the Whole Armed Forces Community.



It’s the Lead - Up to Crufts for the RAF Police Dogs (Royal Air Force)

The RAF Police Military Working Dog Display Team is busy putting the finishing touches to their showcase performance for Crufts at the NEC Birmingham on the 7th and 8th March.
The first Crufts was in 1871, so it's a show not only steeped in history, but it's grown into one of the largest in the world, so the pressure will certainly be on.
A bitterly cold RAF Waddington provided the backdrop to the intense rehearsal schedule for these willing volunteers who successful passed a stringent selection process to make the final team. With performances in the main arena on Saturday and Sunday in front of a crowd of up to 5000, the RAF Police handlers and their trusted companions are spending hours together to create a crowd-pleasing show that will demonstrate their capabilities and professionalism.
Team Manager, Flight Sergeant Steven Hancox, has a long history with Crufts and first performed there in 1991. He has developed the 2015 display and says:
"As the team are all volunteers, I set some parameters about what I'd like to see and asked them to go off and do their homework and come back and show me exactly what they could do."
The handlers are faced with mastering a marching technique designed specifically for these demonstrations for the safety of their dogs and similarly, the dogs are challenged with learning to work together. This year also sees the team return to wearing full No 1 uniform, something not seen at Crufts for a few years. Flight Sergeant Hancox continues:
"There's been lots of work individually and it's only in the last few days before the show that we all come together to complete the final product. It's hard work, yet we're all enjoying the challenge."
With the on station preparations complete, the full dress rehearsal is in the arena itself. The silence of the empty venue is broken only by the hustle and bustle of the show's technical crew. The team takes to the ring knowing that in a few days time, it will be filled with thousands of spectators, plus numerous TV cameras. Crufts differs greatly from the other shows the RAF Police Dogs undertake throughout the year as the audience has a large proportion of experts assessing their every move, so there is a palpable apprehension as this final rehearsal gets underway.
Sergeant Andy Ackers, based at RAF Cranwell, is Team Leader and a veteran of dog displays; he's partnered with yellow Labrador, Gabby, an Arms and Explosive Search Dog. He gives the whistle instructions during performance and shares his experiences with his team members to reassure them, saying:
"The main thing is to enjoy it. It is nerve-racking but those nerves are good to ensure you concentrate and avoid being blasé. Once you finish a demonstration like this, it's a great feeling and you just can't wait to do it all again!"
Over the course of the show and away from the main arena, the general public has ample opportunity to interact with members of the team and talk about the role of the RAF Police and the life these special partners share.
The commentator for the display is Flight Sergeant Stephen Penman and he sums up his thoughts on Crufts, saying:
"This is a great team and I'm really lucky to work with people like this every day. For me, this type of high profile event gives the RAF Police an opportunity to engage with the public and explain about the work we do with the dogs, both in the UK and overseas. I can't wait to get started now!"
Coverage of Crufts can be seen on Channel 4 and More4 thorough the course of the weekend.
Editor: Sal Davidson

Photographs: Mr Gordon Elias / SAC Clarke

Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) Dog handlers prepair for thier demonstaration at this years Crufts event.
Sgt Walker and Nora.

RAF Police Dog handlers from RAF Waddington, Cranwell and St Mawgan.

Cpl Palmer and Nelly.

Cpl Wilson and Resi.

RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2015

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Book review: Buster by Will Barrow and Isabel George

Buster by Will Barrow and Isabel George

Buster by Will Barrow and Isabel George

Most dogs are special to their owners, but here’s a dog that is extra special.


Beautiful brown and white springer spaniel Buster is a military hero… he has a nose for danger, a heart of pure gold and during active service with the RAF, he saved thousands of lives.

Described by his many admiring ‘colleagues’ as a best friend in dog’s clothing and ‘a real person trapped in a fur coat,’ Buster served in three separate wars in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, an unparalleled achievement for a military dog.

He retired in 2010 and the following year he was showered with tributes and won the Crufts Friends for Life Award and a nomination for the prestigious Sun Military Award. Buster is also the official lifetime mascot of the RAF Police.

Throughout his long and perilous career, Buster had several handlers but there was one man with whom he built up a mutually adoring relationship – RAF Police Flight Sergeant Michael ‘Will’ Barrow.

Buster, who saw Will through some of his darkest hours in Afghanistan, ‘the most dangerous place on God’s earth,’ now has a permanent home with the RAF serviceman and his family in Lincoln.

Their partnership under fire produced some heroic feats in the dust and desert heat of Afghanistan – and beyond – and now Will’s amazing and moving story of enduring loyalty and a life-saving friendship has been told to Isabel George.

‘With some dogs you share a boil in the bag breakfast and maybe a blanket on a cold desert floor… but, if you’re very, very lucky there will be the one dog you would lay down your life for – and for me that dog is Buster,’ he reveals in a book that will have readers gasping in awe one minute and wiping away a tear in the next.

This inspirational man-dog friendship began in 2007 after Will completed a course as an Arms and Explosives Search (AES) dog handler and was introduced to his new partner, three-year-old Buster who had already completed two tours of Bosnia with two different handlers.

It was an emotional moment for Buster’s previous handler who had the heartbreak of seeing his special dog disappearing off with someone else. ‘It’s like seeing your wife with another bloke!’ jokes Will.

It was tough for Buster too but this dog was a military ‘professional’ … after giving his new ‘master’ a very cool once-over and enjoying a bit of bribery (dog treats), he was the happy, bouncy, proud and confident dog that had already marked him out as the perfect search dog.

Will knew that this tour of duty in war-torn Afghanistan was ‘going to be like nothing else ever’ and he would need a dog that not just coped, but thrived. Buster was that dog, wise beyond his years and a cut above any animal he had worked with before.

Buster got to know Will better than Will knew himself, he was his ‘hairy comfort blanket,’ his closest companion with whom he witnessed Taliban ambushes, dodged bullets, carried out dangerous night searches and endured terrifying rides in the sweaty belly of lumbering Viking tanks.

When their tour of duty ended, the two friends returned home but within a few months Buster was back on duty with a new handler in Afghanistan because another search dog had failed its licensing.

But it wasn’t the end of their partnership… the two were reunited and in 2009 Buster became the last British Military Working Dog to leave Iraq. A year later, he officially became a permanent member of the Barrow household.

The two are still the best of friends, a relationship built on trust and loyalty. Throughout the danger, the heat, the discomfort, the fear, Will Barrow says that he knew that if he died, whether it was that day or that night, he would not be alone – his best pal would be watching over him.

An emotional and uplifting story about a dog in a million.

(Virgin Books, hardback, £9.99)

'Buster saved my life every day we were together’


Flight Sergeant Will Barrow was crouched low, his heart pounding, in the belly of a Viking armoured vehicle under intense Taliban gunfire, when a clear and sudden understanding of his own mortality came to him.

But he had one immediate comfort: “I knew that if I died tonight, I would not be alone, because my best pal would be watching over me.”

It was at moments like this, as the bullets flew, that Sgt Barrow realised the true value of Buster, the trusty springer spaniel whose job was to protect the troops fighting the bloody war in Afghanistan.

Buster is no ordinary animal but a highly trained arms and explosives detection dog with five military campaign medals to his name, who has saved a thousand lives in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And to Sgt Barrow, his handler, he was also a best friend during times of terror.

RAF Police Sergeant Barrow, a career security forces man, is no softie. Almost 6ft tall, with rugged features and the steely core of a military professional, he has also served in Bosnia, Iraq, the Falkland Islands and Northern Ireland.

But as Buster saved him and his colleagues time and again from deadly explosives, an enduring bond developed between the pair.

Their friendship dates back to their Afghanistan tour. It was 2007 and Buster had been deployed with Sgt Barrow to serve in the desert and poppy fields of Helmand and the slums of Lashkar Gah.

It was a treacherous point in the war, when roadside bombs – improvised explosive devices, or IEDS – and suicide missions were commonplace and the body count of British soldiers was rapidly climbing.

Conditions in the troops’ desert camp were basic: food consisted of boil-in-the-bag ration packs, the “mozzipods” they slept in were cramped, and sand permeated everything.

But for Sgt Barrow, 48, at least there was Buster.

In the book he has written as a tribute to their partnership, he recalls the dog’s greatest triumph: a house raid in which he tracked down suicide vests primed for detonation. Two bomb-makers and two teenage would-be bombers were arrested as a result.

But Buster’s ability to track Taliban insurgents and sniff out bombs were just one aspect of his armoury.

Sgt Barrow recounts how Buster became a diplomatic tool, too: “As we searched and chatted to the locals, we soon had a long train of children in tow – like a canine Pied Piper, Buster drew in his crowd and entertained them,” he writes. “Anyone looking on would have wondered how on earth a spaniel from the UK could do so much for the 'hearts and minds’ operation.”

He was, moreover, a model of calmness in terrifying situations, taking his handler’s mind off the immediate risks to himself.

“My main concern was always the little fella, because if he had been injured, my role was non-existent,” he says. “As much as I relied on him not to walk us into IEDs, he needed me to feed and water him.”

He was also an invaluable comfort, emotionally, to both his handler and his comrades.

Sgt Barrow writes of one evening after coming under insurgent fire: “I was missing home and [my wife] Tracy but when he settled on my chest, I curled my arms around him. I needed to talk about the bad day at work, and this time Buster was the one listening.”

At times, Sgt Barrow’s tale reads almost like a love story: the separations – when the serviceman flies home on leave and the springer spaniel is quarantined – are poignant, with the spaniel gazing forlornly after his handler as the latter walks away.

Their joint tour of duty in Afghanistan over in 2008, Buster went on to do four more months in Iraq in 2009. Then Buster found a home with Sgt Barrow in Lincoln.

He retired in 2011, aged seven, and a stream of honours followed. He was made the RAF Police’s lifetime mascot – unprecedented for any dog – and he has received more requests for television appearances than many human war heroes.

Sgt Barrow, meanwhile, went on to become head of police at RAF Henlow. Looking back at his tours with Buster, he is phlegmatic about the life-or-death situations he faced.

“I don’t think we see it the same way as civilians do,” he says. “We deal with it, and just get on with things.”

Nor does he talk much about the horrors of war. “You don’t want to dwell on those sorts of things. It could tip you over the edge a bit.”

But whatever hardships life throws at him, Buster remains by his side.

“We made a pact from the start to look after each other, and Buster has stayed true to our bargain,” he writes. “He saved my life every day we were together. I owe him so much that I can never repay the debt, even if we lived for ever.”

'Buster: The Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives’ by RAF Police Sergeant Will Barrow and Isabel George, is published by Virgin Books at £9.99. To order a copy, call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

From Thursday 29th January make sure you are one of the first to get your paws, or even your hands on a copy of the new book, ‘Buster’, the Royal Air Force Dog who ‘saved a thousand lives’.

BusterGoing on sale today, ‘Buster’ tells the fascinating story of a very brave English Springer spaniel who alongside his handler, RAF Police Flight Sergeant Michael ‘Will’Barrow’, braved bombs and bullets to help save the lives of thousands of troops.

Regularly patrolling through the poppy fields of Afghanistan, Buster would assist his comrades by tracking Taliban insurgents and sniffing out bombs that were regularly left behind for British and American troops.

An arms and explosive sniffer dog, Buster completed five operational tours of Afghanistan and earned a row of medals for his service which also included operational tours in Bosnia and Iraq.


Now, the heroic dog is more used to strolling through leafy Lincolnshire as he enjoys his retirement with his equally faithful friend and handler, Sgt Will Barrow:

“If you’re very, very lucky there will be the one dog you would lay down your life for, and for me that dog is Buster. You can have an almost telepathic bond with your dog and Buster and I developed that very, very quickly.”

BusterIn every aspect of the word, Buster, now 12, truly is man’s best friend and enjoys spending time at home alongside Will’s 2 other dogs, German Shepherd Daggo and his other spaniel, ‘Little Buster’, named in honour of Buster.

Now in charge of the RAF Police section at RAF Henlow, Will misses working with dogs, so has trained Little Buster at home to search: “if you want turmeric or herbs, he’s your man!”

Daily Express 24/1/15

Meet the war hero dog who saved 1,000 lives

STREWN with cuddly toys, balls and squeaky playthings, RAF police sergeant Will Barrow tells me that the lounge of his Lincoln home looks like the proverbial bombsite.

Buster is the most decorated military dog
It is an ironic description given that one of the three canine culprits of the mess is his now retired RAF police dog Buster.

The 12-yearold springer spaniel completed five tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, leading him to national stardom as the most decorated military dog.

“You hear people say that they would died for their friends but I don’t know many who’d actually do so. But Buster would,” says Will, 48, who is separated and has two other dogs.

He is based at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire. The pair formed their special bond in 2007 when, in need of a dog to accompany him on a tour in the Middle East, Will called fellow RAF dog handler Corporal Nick Lyons and asked if he could recommend one.

“I was being deployed to Afghanistan and there is a certain type of dog required for that,” Will explains.

“The desert terrain, the heat and the fact it was a war zone required a dog with loads of drive, an exceptional nose and battle experience.

A search dog without drive is about as useful as a car without an engine.

It is a select few who have what it takes.”

Corporal Lyons immediately suggested his own working dog Buster, who was three years old at the time and had two tours of Bosnia under his belt.

“All handlers think their dog is the best but I could tell that Nick was not just proud of his dog and in awe of his skills in the field but he liked him too – like a mate,” Will reveals.

“When you find a dog that is special, letting go is like the heartbreak of seeing your wife with another bloke.

Buster and RAF RAF police sergeant in action

Before I left him I took Buster to a field for a really good run. He automatically checked it for explosives.

RAF police sergeant Will Barrow

I could see that Nick was a bit choked when he handed Buster over to me and I know how that feels.

I’ve had to say goodbye to several working dogs in my career and it is easier with some than others.”

Buster was an arms and explosives search (AES) dog and his reward for a “find” such as ammunition or grenades was always a tennis ball to play with, food doesn’t come into any part of military dog training or work.

“One thing that made me laugh from the start was Buster’s ‘indication’ – how he told me and the rest of the team that he had located a ‘find’ such as some weapons,” Will continues.

“Most dogs trained for this work will sit or stand to indicate but Buster performed a little jig with his front paws and growled.

“But the hugely serious side to Buster’s little dance was that when he did it there was no doubt there was a weapon or explosives under his nose.

With Buster there was no mistake.” The pair did five weeks of training together before leaving for Afghanistan. “I’ve actually had better search dogs – a drugs detection dog called

Guy, who was phenomenal, and a dog in Bosnia who produced find after find – but then there were a lot of weapons to be found there,” adds Will, who joined the Air Cadets when he was 13.

Although his heart was set on being a pilot, after seeing a careers video featuring RAF police dogs he knew he wanted to be a dog handler.

Will’s instant rapport with Buster was cemented during many heart stopping moments in Afghanistan.

“It was more of a combat war then.

There wasn’t the massive threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that was to become so deadly later on.

But there were frightening times, the worst ones being on the Jalalabad Road in Kabul.

At the time it was the most bombed road in the world and rife with suicide bombers.

Every time Buster stopped and sniffed at something my heart was in my mouth.

It was winter and there was snow on the ground but I would come off those searches sweating.

“Then there was a joint operation with the Afghan police and Afghan national army to raid a house thought to be the base for a team of suicide bombers.

After we entered the house Buster’s body language changed and I knew he had a smell of something.

My heart was in my mouth as he moved towards a door at the back of the room.

“But the Afghans ignored our instruction to stay back while we went in and made it safe – they stormed in and came out triumphantly holding up the vests, which were primed and ready to be detonated. It was terrifying.

“In the end it was a complete success as we arrested two would-be suicide bombers, both 15-year-old boys, plus the bomb makers.

“Another scary moment was when Buster and I were in a convoy of eight armoured Land Rovers crossing a wadi and four of them got stuck.

As darkness fell we could see the torches and headlamps of the Taliban moving closer over the nearby hills.

Thankfully we managed to pay a local with a truck to get the vehicles out, saving us from certain attack.

“Back at base Buster would charge around happily with a ball in his mouth, doing everything he could to amuse us all – when you are away from home in a hostile environment entertainment is so valuable.”

Will admits that he didn’t realise the extent of his relationship with Buster until the two left Afghanistan and Buster went into quarantine in Cyprus while he flew home to the UK.

“Before I left him I took Buster to a field for a really good run. He automatically checked it for explosives.

We sat down and had a big cuddle and Buster licked my face. I couldn’t help but wonder what I was going to do without him.

Perhaps he felt the same because he let out a little whine as he Daily Express Saturday January 24 2015 29 shuffled closer and leant his weight against me.

Buster: The dog who saved me is on sale today
“Four hours later I was home. But home without Buster wasn’t right.”

Shortly after returning to work in the UK Will got word that Buster had been sent from Cyprus back to Afghanistan to replace a vehicle search dog that had failed its licensing.

Will was furious: “I knew he hated searching vehicles and I hated the thought of him being back in Helmand so soon and without me.”

When Buster returned to the UK after being quarantined again following that tour Will was waiting for him as the plane he was on landed at RAF Lyneham.

“We had a great reunion with lots of licks from him and strokes and fuss from me.

Buster was back in my life and I felt more like myself with him at my side.”

Come early 2009 Will and Buster were deployed for a six-month tour of Iraq after which it was an agonising 10 months before Buster was released from quarantine in March 2010.

By then he had made headlines for completing more tours of duty than any other military dog.

“Everyone wanted him on their TV show or in their newspaper,” Will recalls.

“We appeared on everything from BBC Breakfast to The One Show where we sat next to Katherine Jenkins on the sofa.

He had captured not just my heart but the whole nation’s.” With arthritis in his shoulder Buster officially retired in 2011 and a year later won the coveted Crufts Friends For Life award presented to him by actress Jennifer Saunders.

Understandably after everything they had been through together Will couldn’t let his best pal go so has kept him as a beloved pet.

Buster is now the official lifetime mascot of the RAF police, an honour that no other dog has received but then no other dog has served in three separate theatres of war: Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He spends his retirement lounging around on the rug, playing with his toys, eating his favourite chicken pâté and making a mess of my house,” laughs Will.

“He’s the ultimate gannet with food and who am I not to indulge him?

“We made a pact from the start to look after each other. I owe him so much that I can never repay the debt, even if we both lived for ever.”

To order Buster: The Dog Who Saved A Thousand Lives by Will Barrow and Isabel George (Virgin Books £9.99) call the Express Bookshop on 01872 562310, or send a cheque or postal order to: Buster Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4WJ Visit www.expressbookshop.com. UK delivery is free.

Eastern Daily Press 23/1/15



Sparky & Quinn, both recently back from Afghanistan where they've been seeking out IED's and their handlers Matthew & Sarah at the Animals in the War Remembrance service at Dearnford Lake today.

Scottish war hero who lost foot wins fight for fitness in battle to walk canine comrade again

MICK McCONNELL lost his foot in a bomb blast in Afghanistan but has returned to fitness so he can walk his explosives sniffer dog Memphis.

Mick with Memphis and his partner Lorna

A SCOTS war hero who was blown up by a boobytrap bomb in Afganistan has won his greatest battle – by being reunited with his four-legged comrade.

Mick McConnell, who lost his foot in the blast, was desperate to get fighting fit again – so he could walk the special dog who served at his side.

Mick was blown up by a Taliban boobytrap while on patrol with explosives sniffer dog Memphis.

His left heel was shattered and later had to be amputated. He also suffered burns and shrapnel injuries. But the tough Scot vowed to adopt his four-legged pal who served alongside him.

Record man Stephen Paul Stewart reveals Mick’s brush with death and his battle to get the springer spaniel back in new book A Soldier’s Best Friend.

Mick, 39, originally from Clydebank, described the moment his life changed forever.

He said: “Memphis was up well ahead of me. If he had been next to me, it might not have happened. I think if he had gone over the device, he would have got it.

“I went away in the helicopter and the marines took him back to Checkpoint Toki.

“He was retired then and there, since he had been through a big shock and they didn’t want to put him with someone else.

“My unit was due to come back so he had done enough.”

The book highlights the extraordinary bravery of Britain’s military dog teams in ­Afghanistan, who have silently waged war against the deadly insurgents.

Every day, these four-legged heroes save soldiers’ lives in the most dangerous country on the planet – yet their contribution is little recognised. Experts believe each hero dog saves the lives of between 150 and 1800 soldiers in the course of its working life.

After leaving the frontline, Memphis was taken to kennels in Germany for ­quarantine before eventually being reunited with his “daddy”, Mick, at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

Mick McConnell and Memphis take a break during their tour of duty in Afghanistan
Mick McConnell and Memphis take a break during their tour of duty in Afghanistan

The spaniel went into a tail-wagging frenzy once he ­realised who had come to visit. Mick added: “It was brilliant. He just came bounding out the room, had a run round the compound and eventually recognised me.

“It was a good day. Once I am properly on my feet, I will have to get up and walk him so we will keep each other going. I will never run again but I will walk again.”

In 2013, Mick – who has been supported throughout by wife Lorna – was suffering from extreme pain that meant a below-the-knee amputation was his only option.

He added: “Fortunately for me, it was only a partial detonation.

“The lads tell me it was about 20kg of explosive, so if it had all gone off I wouldn’t be here.

“Memphis was terrific out on the frontline – I will never have job satisfaction like that in my life again. It was fantastic just knowing you can help keep guys safe.”

Two soldiers and their dogs have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. Scot Liam Tasker, of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, was just 26 when he was killed in Helmand on patrol in 2011 with his sniffer dog Theo.

Liam’s close pal Ken Rowe and his sniffer dog Sasha were killed in a Taliban ambush in 2008.

Reporter Stephen joined the teams on terrifying missions with the Black Watch in Kandahar. Combining reportage with years of research, he tells the emotional story of the deep ties between the dogs and men.

He said: “This bond is unique – the pairs can work together for years. And, tragically, some handlers die with their dogs.

“It is high time that the story of these overlooked four-legged heroes was told in full.”

A Soldier’s Best Friend by Stephen Paul Stewart is available from Amazon, Waterstones and all good bookshops, £14.99 ­hardback.


George and Margaret Eland celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on Thursday

George and Margaret Eland from Guisborough who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary

Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes.

It is also the key to a long and happy marriage according to a Guisborough couple who celebrated 60 years of marriage on Thursday.

George and Margaret Eland both agree that a little patience and care is the way to remain happy throughout the years.

Margaret, 78, said: “ We never argue and we have never fallen out.

“Even during the really tough times, like when George was striking for British Steel and we had no money, we always made it work.

“We have been together such a long time now that it seems like we are one.”

Stockton-born George added: “We don’t even have to work at it because we more or less know how the other is feeling.”

The couple, who now live at Kemplah House retirement home in Guisborough, met when George, 87, was stationed in Norfolk as an RAF police dog handler.

Attracted by music coming from the village hall one evening, he attempted to get inside, only to realise that he was at the wrong entrance.

Luckily for the Teessider, a young local girl was on hand to help him get into the dance - and still by his side to this day.

The pair married in Norfolk in 1954 at St Peter’s Parish church but moved back to the North-east after George retired from the RAF.

He spent most of his working life as a heavy goods lorry driver, which meant time away from his family - something both pensioners admit was hard.


George and Margaret Eland's wedding
George and Margaret Eland's wedding


Margaret said: “I have never liked being away from him and hated it when he was on the road.”

George added: “It was hard being away from the family and I missed them a lot.”

The couple - who have two daughters and one son - have nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

As the youngest of 10, Margaret comes from a big family and now enjoys the fact that they have a big family themselves.

She said: “We are very lucky and have regular visits from our family.

“To help us celebrate our anniversary, we have family travelling from all over the country to join us which is lovely.

“We really are lucky, we know it.

“We have had an amazing life and the years have just flown by.”

The couple have already received plenty of gifts and cards - including one from The Queen - to celebrate their anniversary.

Tonight ,surrounded by family and friends, they will cut their celebratory cake at a party held for them and dance the night away, as they did all those years ago.


Amazing Hertz the sniffer dog, a German shorthaired pointer, was so good at saving British lives the Americans and Danes called him in to assist them too



The RAF’s new recruit was a star from his first day in training and was quickly singled out for special missions.

His talents have since saved countless British lives in Afghanistan – and the Americans and Danes were so impressed he was called in to assist them too.

This fearless hero of the war against the Taliban is called Hertz – and he is a German shorthaired pointer.

Hertz joined the Royal Air Forceas a one-year-old puppy and after excelling at drugs- detection classes he was fast-tracked into special classes which taught him how to sniff out electronic equipment.

And after just 13 months in Afghanistan he found more than 100 items of contraband.

His RAF handler, Sgt Jonathan Tanner, says: “Hertz, without a doubt, saved the lives of countless British and Allied service­menand women due to his intelligence and amazing nose.

“While he was in Afghanistan there wasn’t a single attack on Camp Bastion – and he played a part in that.”


Daily MirrorSergeant Jonathan Tanner with Hertz, a mobile phone detection dog
Ready for action: Hertz in his 'doggles'


His job was to sniff out banned electronic devices brought into the camp by the Afghan civilians working there.

They could potentially be used to pass information to insurgents that could help them plan an attack.

Jonathan, 45, adds: “On one day he found three mobile phones and a couple of chargers in a single tent.

"That was a really big haul. And it wasn’t just mobile phones.

"He also found voice recorders, MP3 players, anything which could store information.

“Once he even sniffed out an individual sim card that had been hidden. He really is extraordinary.”

Now Hertz has been nominated as Public Service Animal of the Year at the Daily Mirror and RSPCA Animal Hero Awards next month.

Although most of his work was at Camp Bastion he was sometimes needed for searches at outlying bases, so was trained to fly by ­helicopter.

He even had his own protective dog goggles or “doggles”.

Jonathan says: “Dogs can find air travel stressful but Hertz is an absolute star.


Daily MirrorSergeant Jonathan Tanner with Hertz, a mobile phone detection dog
Old pals: Sergeant Jonathan Tanner with Hertz


"He loves flying by helicopter and took to it really quickly. He especially loved to be at a window so he could look out.”

However, one British Army officer won’t be sitting next to him again in a hurry – the mischievous pup chomped through his pistol-holder during one helicopter flight.

“He got bored easily and would always find something to munch into,” says Jonathan.

“Once Ed Sheeran visited Camp Bastion to entertain the RAF Police.

"Hertz was invited but clearly wasn’t keen on the tunes and ate a chair instead to pass the time!

"But although he had his wayward moments, as soon as I put his harness on him, he knew he was working and he would be 100% focused.”

Hertz had such a good reputation in Afghanistanthat the US Marine Corps and Danish forces borrowed him to help with their search operations too.

Jonathan, an RAF man for 26 years, says: “They were more than keen to get him on side and we were more than happy for him to be used by other nations.


Daily MirrorHertz the dog
Full of life: Hertz at RAF Benson


“It took Hertz a tiny proportion of the time it would take a team of people to search an area so he allowed us to massively cut down on man-hours.

“We could be called to any job if they thought that Hertz might find something.

"He really was very highly respected.

“Any high-ranking military visitors always wanted to meet him. But he had no respect for rank – if you went to his kennel you didn’t get away without a slobbery kiss on the face!

“We were in Afghanistan for Christmas last year and he was thoroughly spoiled.

"The British public are so kind and generous and literally sent out hundreds of boxes full of treats for the military dogs.

“Hertz had a brilliant time tearing into his little stockpile of pressies.


Daily MirrorSergeant Jonathan Tanner with Hertz, a mobile phone detection dog
Playtime: The pointer has a gift for sniffing out mobile phones


“He was a real favourite in Camp Bastion.

"We would often go to the NAAFI for a brew and a biscuit and he always stretched out on the floor and gladly accepted the fuss that everyone wanted to make of him.”

Hertz lived in a purpose-built kennel complex at Camp Bastionwhich was air-conditioned for the scorching summers and heated for the icy winters.

It even had a swimming pool so the dogs could cool off.

Jonathan says: “Hertz absolutely loved the pool – any opportunity and he’d be in there. Weather was never an issue for him.

"He worked through a whole range of conditions, from 45-degree heat to minus 10 in the winter.

"While we were out there we even had the first snowfall at Camp Bastion in 12 years. Hertz was really excited.

"He’d be sliding about in it all over the place.

“He is an absolutely cracking dog– my best mate while in theatre.


Sergeant Jonathan Tanner with Hertz, a mobile phone detection dog
Hero: Sergeant Jonathan Tanner with Hertz


"When I was having a bad day or was missing home, I’d go and visit him in the kennels and he’d give me a big lick and make me feel better.

"From day one I knew he was something special and I wasn’t wrong.

“When I had to leave Afghanistan after nine-and-a-half months it was very tough leaving Hertz behind.

"He’s probably got another three or so years left of service then I’m looking forward to him becoming part of my family.”

After Jonathan came home in May to wife Jo and daughters Hazel, 13, and Zoe, 10, Hertz carried on with new handler Corporal Simon Dack, before returning to Britain in September.

He is now working on RAF bases here, mainly as a drugs detection dog, while he waits for his next big assignment overseas.

Jonathan says: “This week we were reunited for the first time since I left him in Afghanistan.

"I was worried he might have forgotten me but it was just like we’d never been apart.

“His tail didn’t stop wagging and I didn’t stop smiling.”

RAF Police dog handler- Corporal Mick McConnell- was injured while serving in Afghanistan.


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