Crommie the war dog commended for his support for secret agents in the Second World War

The PDSA Commendation was awarded to Crommie the spaniel in Godmanchester. Picture: ARCHANT

The PDSA Commendation was awarded to Crommie the spaniel in Godmanchester. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

A dog which comforted secret agents before they flew on wartime missions into Nazi-held Europe has been commended by the animal charity PDSA.

A dog that comforted secret agents before they flew on wartime missions into Nazi-held Europe has received a posthumous commendation from the animal charity PDSA.

Crommie, a golden cocker spaniel, has been recognised for putting the agents - who faced torture and death if they were captured - at their ease.

He was especially good with those who were upset and probably suffering from what is now widely recognised as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The dog, whose name was Cromwell, was affectionately known as Crommie and was the pet of Sqn Ldr Cautley Nasmyth Shaw, commander of Farm Hall, Godmanchester.

Farm Hall was a holding centre for the agents run by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) before they were sent on missions to Europe during the Second World War.

Many of these missions took off from Tempsford airfield, near St Neots.

Most Read

Godmanchester historian Roger Leivers discovered the story of Crommie while carrying out research and passed the information on to the PDSA which decided to make the commendation - part of a series of awards for animal heroism - to mark the dog's contribution to the war effort as one of its first PTSD dogs.

The ceremony at the Bridge Hotel, Huntingdon and later at the Porch Museum, in Godmanchester, included representatives of the PDSA, and Tania Szabo.

Tania's mother was a secret agent called Violette who was captured, tortured and executed.

She attended the ceremony with two of the sons of Sqn Ldr Shaw, at the Porch Museum on Saturday.

Mr Leivers said: "Crommie seems to have had a great deal of understanding of what the agents were going through before they were sent off on their missions and had this ability to calm people down.

"He was found to have an incredible ability to calm and reassure the agents at Farm Hall."

Mr Leivers said many of the agents were under incredible pressure, knowing what their fate would be if they were discovered.

He described how one agent - all were referred to Joes - became distressed after flying out and being brought back because of bad weather in the drop zone.

Mr Leivers said the Czech agent's first reaction on his return was to burst into tears before picking up Crommie and holding on to him through the night.

"That calmed him down and he was ready to go the next day. He took Crommie to the airfield at Tempsford where he flew off.

"It is believed the mission was successful," Mr Leivers said.

He said the dog's response to the troubled Czech was typical of the way he reacted with the Joes.

Mr Leivers found the account of Crommie's behaviour in documents written by Bruce Bonsey who was "ambushed" at the Old Bridge Hotel, in Huntingdon, by his old friend Sqn Ldr Shaw who wanted to recruit him as his deputy.

Bonsey took the job and went on to meet Crommie who made such a striking impression that he wrote a four-page account of the dog's behaviour.

A separate pictorial display, featuring Bonsey's notes on Crommie, took place in the same room where the "ambush" happened.

Mr Leivers said material about Crommie had appeared in the past, but he felt the story was unique and deserved to be better known and for Crommie's contribution to the war effort to be recognised.

According to the Bonsey document, which is on show, at the Imperial War Museum, Bruce Bonsey, who was stationed in Pathfinder House in 1942, wrote: "With Cautley going, we lost not only the influence of his outstanding character, but he took his dog with him.

"Cromwell by name, but better known as Crommie , and this left a big gap in our lives.

"This dog was a golden cocker spaniel of unusual intelligence, and a very happy, friendly nature."

Bonsey went on: "Many times I saw him go and sit beside a Joe who was worried or unhappy, with remarkable results in cheering the chap up with this sympathetic attention."

He ends the piece by saying: "I do not think it would be difficult for anyone, be he or she an animal lover or not, to appreciate what a gap Crommie's departure left in our lives."

In the letter, Bonsey also explains that sometimes Crommie had a "wild streak which could be triggered by gun fire which made him "crazed with enthusiasm".