The Airedale was used extensively in World War I to carry messages to soldiers behind enemy lines and transport mail.
They were also used by the Red Cross to find wounded soldiers on the battlefield. There are numerous accounts of Airedales delivering his messages despite terrible injuries.
The story is told of an Airedale named “Jack” ran through half a mile of enemy fire, with a message attached inside his neck. He arrived at headquarters with a broken jaw and a badly chipped leg, and right after delivering the message, he fell dead in front of the recipient of it.
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson was responsible for the training of messenger and guard dogs in the British Army. He, along with his wife, established a War Dog Training School at Shoeburyness in Essex, England. In 1916, they provided two Airedales (Wolf & Prince) to use as message carriers. After both dogs proved their mettle in battle, the Airedales were given more tasks, such as locating wounded soldiers on the battlefield, an idea borrowed from the Red Cross.
Before the adoption of the German Shepherd as the dog of choice for law enforcement and search and rescue work, the Airedale Terrier often filled this role.
At the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, the Russian embassy in London contacted Lieutenant Colonel Richardson for help in acquiring dogs for the Russian Imperial Army, trained to remove the wounded from the battlefields. He sent terriers, mostly Airedale Terriers, for communication and health services. Although these original imports perished, Airedale Terriers were reintroduced to Russia in the early 1920s for use by the Red Army. Special service dog units were created in 1923, and Airedale Terriers were used as guard dogs, police tracking dogs, and victim dogs.
After World War I, the Airedales’ popularity increased rapidly thanks to stories of their bravery on the battlefield and also because Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Warren Harding owned Airedales. President Harding’s Airedale was called Laddie Boy.