This well-worn dog collar is on display at the museum as part of a temporary exhibit recognising the services of animals at war ahead of Purple Poppy Day on February 24 2023.
It belonged to a dog called Ben during World War II and was donated to the National Army Museum in 1985 by the President of the Divisional Cavalry Association in memory of their four-legged comrade. Ben’s collar was meant to clearly show that he was a veteran member of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2NZEF). Fitted onto the sides of his collar are a pair of 2NZEF cap badges, a black and white “New Zealand” shoulder title and the medal ribbons for the 1939-45 Star, the Africa Star and the Italy Star.
Colonel Ben was a small white terrier dog who became the mascot for A Squadron of the 2nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry during World War II. He served with the squadron throughout both the North Africa and Italy campaigns, often hopping into one of the trucks with the men to go along for a ride. On one occasion during his time in North Africa Ben was wounded and had to be evacuated back to base.
Ben was promoted from time to time after displaying meritorious behaviour in the field, and occasionally demoted when he behaved in a manner which was considered unbecoming of a soldier of his rank. He did eventually reach the rank of Colonel.
Sadly, Colonel Ben died whilst still on active service at a transit camp in Soissons, France on 18 November 1945.
The picture of the dog collar is from our own collection 1985.2190, and the two photos of Colonel Ben are courtesy of Murray Forster sourced from New Zealand History: nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/colonel-ben-the-mascot, updated 15-Jul-2013