LOYALTY is a defining trait for Dobermans, but for a hungry dog engaged in war, food is a good enough lure to break ranks.
Australian troops were triumphant when during World War I, Roff the German messenger dog was tempted to cross the trenches outside Villers-Bretonneux by the prospect of food.
He became a trophy for the soldiers, who nicknamed him Digger, and is now stuffed and mounted in a new exhibition at the Australian War Memorial which focuses on the role animals play in war.
"Roff ran away the day his German commander was saying what a marvellous dog he was," exhibition curator Kate Dethridge said. . Other animals caught up in war included carrier pigeons, camels for transport and kangaroos smuggled out by servicemen as a reminder of home.
A black and white photograph in the exhibition shows an Australian soldier playing with a kangaroo in Cairo, against a backdrop of pyramids. "The boys were smuggling joeys out in backpacks which, in the First World War, were like big sacks. Once they were on board a ship and it had left Australia, there was nothing an officer could do."
Koalas were also smuggled.
The pets and mascots were evidence of humanity in the most awful of conditions, Ms Dethridge said.
However, not all animals were a source of comfort. Lice in Gallipoli and flies and mosquitoes in the Pacific were terrible pests. Soldiers wrote letters from France telling of rats found snuggled up against them for warmth as they slept.
Cockroaches were also a problem on the HMAS Westralia. Said stoker Jack Searle: "The ship was a haven for cockroaches. When opening our lockers dozens of the dirty devils scattered for cover … They crawled over sleeping sailors … and I once saw a cockroach drawn into the mouth of a heavy snorer who never knew what he had swallowed".
One of the more bizarre uses of animals were rat carcasses stuffed with gelignite during World War II. The British would drop the rats over industrial areas of Germany hoping those scooping coal into boilers would simply throw in the disguised explosives.
A is for Animals runs in Canberra until July 22.