Loyal Freda, lest we forget

16:00, Mar 05 2014
DOG: A photo of Freda was found with relatives of the girl Freda was named after.

She provided friendship for those departing and comfort for those lucky to return from the horror of war.

That's the poignant subject matter Torbay author Peter Millett has grappled with writing his latest children's book.

Based on a real-life dog, Anzac Puppy is the tale of Freda, a Great Harlequin Dane.

Peter Millett and illustrator Trish Bowles
ARTISTIC STRUGGLE: Peter Millett and illustrator Trish Bowles worked hard to capture period detail in each of the book’s 32 picture panels.

Mr Millett says he wants his young readers to think about friendship and ask, "what if your pet became part of the armed services?"

The author focuses on the bond between a World War I soldier "who just wants to go home" and Freda.

Through the book, "the boy becomes a man and the puppy a dog, they both grow for different reasons," says the author.


The real Freda spent the war as a camp dog for the New Zealand Rifle Brigade based near Birmingham.

The brigade didn't fight as one, men from the 2000-strong unit were sent out as replacements to decimated front-line battalions fighting in nearby France.

As a camp dog, Freda became part of the brigade, she even marched with the troops and stood to attention at parade.

To produce the book, Mr Millett teamed-up with illustrator Trish Bowles. The pair worked hard to pack in as much historical detail as possible while subtly conveying metaphors of loss and hope for young readers.

Although the 32-page book is one of his shortest, research took more than 10 years, Mr Millett says.

Work on the book started in 2001 after he read an Auckland newspaper article about English commemorations for the long deceased dog.

The fascinated author discovered Freda's collar had somehow ended-up in the New Zealand Army museum collection in Waiouru.

Meanwhile, Ms Bowles discovered a relative of hers, Jack Judson, served in the brigade during the war. She dedicated her artwork to him.

Anzac Puppy, which is due for release in March, has a happy ending, says Mr Millett.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

North Shore Times