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Meet Lucky

Royal Air Force Police no.3610 AD

RAF Police anti-terrorist tracker dog deployed for active service 1949-52, during the Malaya Campaign.

Lucky, was one of four German Shepherds selected by the Royal Air Force Police dog unit for special duties during the Malaya Campaign, otherwise known as the Malaya Emergency, which began in 1948 and was declared over in 1960. Lucky served for three years and was the only dog in the team to survive her tour of duty.

Lucky, Jasper, Bobbie and Lassie underwent rigorous training to form an elite anti-terrorist tracker dog team capable of locating and exposing insurgents hiding-out in the Malaya jungle. The dogs’ highly sensitive sense of smell gave them the edge in an incredibly hostile environment where the dense vegetation, intense heat and lack of reliable intelligence made tracking the armed guerrilla forces almost impossible for the ground troops. All too often the terrorists had the advantage, which was often fatal. The aim of using the canine trackers was to take that advantage away from the enemy and put the British troops and Malayan police on the offensive.

At the start of the Malaya Emergency six Gurkha, three British and two Malay battalions were sent to quell the revolt launched by the Malay National Liberation Army – the armed wing of the Malayan Communist party – with National Service conscripts being drafted in to bolster the British numbers. Special Branch and the Malayan Police provided the intelligence required to direct operations, but the British were, at first, unable to break the link between the guerrilla forces and the Chinese ‘squatters’ who attached themselves to local villages where they could provide arms and cover for the insurgents. And so, the fighting continued.

Jungle training for any troops deployed to Malaya was essential. Jungle Warfare School provided the troops with the knowledge and skills they would need to live and fight in such a challenging location where stealth, patience and constant awareness of the many dangers lurking in their surroundings would mean the difference between life and death. Lucky and his canine colleagues were an added force – trained to detect the presence of the terrorists before they could do harm.

Lucky and the other Air Dogs were attached to Malay Police and several British Army regiments during their time in Malaya including the Coldstream Guards, 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Guards and the Gurkhas. As a unit the dogs were responsible for the capture of hundreds of communist terrorists including, in 1951, the notorious gang leader Lan-Jang-San who was the mastermind behind so many deaths of innocent local people. The tracking skills of the dogs ensured that the terrorists were apprehended, and further deaths and casualties prevented.

Sadly, Bobbie, Lassie and Jasper lost their lives in the line of duty and only Lucky survived to continue his RAF Police career after his duties in Malaya were completed. Lucky’s handler, RAF Police veteran Corporal Bevel Austin Stapleton credited his dog with saving his life many times over during the time they served together. In recognition of his service and life-saving action in conflict, Lucky was awarded a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – On 6 February 2007.