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The Real Story

Although Jack and Badger's story is fictional - it's based on real events. From the early stages of the Second World War in 1939, there were fears that Britain might run low on supplies. As an island, much of what we needed was imported - leading to almost instant restrictions on some products, like petrol. But food was the real worry; and with much of our cheese, sugar, fruit and meat imported, and 50 million hungry mouths to feed, there was a real worry there might not be enough to go around. In fact, starving Britain into submission was one of the key strategies of the Germans.

A white Staffordshire Bull Terrier sits on a tree stump


Everyone was issued a book of tokens called a ration book, allowing them to purchase a maximum amount of each type of food. This was called 'rationing'. No one could be greedy and waste was frowned upon. Before long, the mouths of Britain’s pets began being seen as an unnecessary burden on dwindling supplies and the suggestion was made that something needed to be done about it.

Even before rationing came into force, the Government was worried that there wouldn't be enough food to go around and so they issued advice to people that they should either send their pets to the countryside or, if they couldn't do that, to consider having them put to sleep. There was never a direct 'order' for people to do it - but everyone wanted to 'do their bit' and help the country win the war. Some people thought that those who didn't do everything they could to prevent waste were unpatriotic, and so there was a lot of pressure on everyone to go without things they might want - whether that was new clothes, certain foods, or, tragically, their pets.

The idea that it was the right thing to do took hold fast, and during the first few weeks of the war 750,000 pets were put to sleep, often in the mistaken belief that there was no alternative. This became known as the British pet massacre. As the Blitz took hold (the German bombing of London and other cities) there was more pressure on people to sacrifice their animals.  It's certainly not a decision people took lightly - and if you've ever had a pet, you'll know how hard - and upsetting -  that must have been.


As you'd expect, there was outcry about the plight of all these animals. One such voice was that of Duchess Nina Douglas-Hamilton – an avid animal rights campaigner who made it her mission to save as many pets as she could. In 1903 she founded the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society and set up three hospitals to help horses injured in WW1. She campaigned tirelessly against cruelty to animals; going on to found a similar organisation in Scotland, and, after World War Two, the Ferne Animal Sanctuary at her home in Dorset, which continues her work to this day. 


It's against this story that we find our hero, Badger. She's been Jack's best friend for three years since the death of his mother, Mary. Badger is a white Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a 'staffie' for short. They're small but very strong dogs and incredibly loyal and friendly. Jack's dad is a fireman, and, in our story he discovers Badger in a burned out house and brings her home. She doesn't have a name tag so they don't know what to call her - until Jack's brother says that a sooty mark on her head makes her look like a badger. Jack proudly announces that her name is Badger and the two become inseparable. 

Black and white photograph of Nina Douglas-Hamilton, Duchess of Hamilton
A brown staffordshire bull terrier stands in front of a gate
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