Royal Army Veterinary Corps Celebrates Centenary

British Army vets paraded through their hometown of Melton Mowbray to celebrate 100 years of the RAVC.

The Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC) have celebrated their centenary with a march through their hometown of Melton Mowbray.

It is nearly 100 years since 'Royal' was added to their name in honour of their work during the First World War.

More than 200 officers and soldiers based at St George’s Barracks, North Luffenham and from the Defence Animal Training Regiment were accompanied by 25 riders and 16 military working dogs and their handlers from the RAVC.

Lieutenant Colonel Martyn Thompson, Commanding Officer of the Defence Animal Training Regiment, said:

"On behalf of the RAVC I would like to thank the people of Melton Mowbray and the wider community for their ongoing support."

The RAVC trains up to 170 dogs every year, which go onto serve in the military and police force, and 'produce' around 60 horses a year, which include those part of the Household Cavalry and the King's Troop. 

During the First World War, millions of horses were used across war zones, with hundreds of thousands losing their lives.

Colonel Neil Smith, Chief Veterinary Officer, said:

"At one point, 50% of all vets in the country were in the Veterinary Corps." 

In its first 82 years of service, they were organised entirely on a regimental basis. 

Veterinary surgeons were directly recruited into cavalry regiments and wore the uniform of the regiments they joined.

Lieutenant Henry Mosey is a Veterinary Officer that has been qualified for a year and is beginning a career in military animal medicine.

He explained Forces News why he chose to go down this route: "For me personally, it was definitely about making a difference - a job on 'civvy' street really wouldn't have satisfied myself.

"I need to know that the patients I'm dealing with are really making a difference on the international stage - and it's no exaggeration to say they're out there saving lives."

horses at RAVC

Melton Mowbray has been involved with military animals since 1906 when it was a remount farm - where it sourced horses for the army and issued them to frontline units. 

The base has been responsible for dogs since 1945 and they're now trained for the military and the police force.

Lance Corporal Nicola Parfrement, a dog handler, says training the dogs at a young age and teaching them obedience and agility is fundamental for their future.

She said: "They need to be agile dogs to be able to do the job 

"While they're working you always want the dog to be able to relate back to the handler and their obedience training."

She added: "I love training them, putting your own mark on them, getting them from a young age and just seeing them grow and seeing what you can turn them into."

dogs ravc
Lacey is under intense training to be able to detect explosives on the ground.

The dogs have a range of specialisms, for example, a Dutch Shepherd, Lola, is trained in protection. 

Whereas Lacey, a black Labrador, is learning to become an arms explosive search dog - just like her predecessors who were being taught the same specialism more than 50 years ago.

Lance Corporal Bianca Smith, arms explosive search trainer said: "I think there's a lot of pride that goes into training the dog.

"The amount of time and effort that people put into producing a good dog really shows when you go on deployments like Afghanistan and Iraq."

dogs ravc
The dogs take part in agility training to teach obedience.

Major Carolyn Whiting, a Veterinary Officer, says people do not realise the number of dogs that serve: "Obviously the horses aren't used in warfare anymore, but the dogs are used a lot more than people actually appreciate.

"It's really important that the general public know what we do and what purpose we have in protecting them."

The RAVC also further helps the animals at the end of their military career, by rehoming and re-training 'complicated' service animals.