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The Regimental history of the 48th Highlanders by Kim Beattie is an extremely detailed account of the 15th Battalion throughout The Great War 1914-1918 and nowhere is there any mention of unit mascots other than the beloved Belgian sheepdog Bruno adopted by Lt Col William Marshall in July 1915 while the Unit was out of the line in billets at Grande Munque Farm near Ploegstreet, Belgium. In addition to the multiple references to Bruno in the regimental history, there numerous period unit documents and photographs to verify his existence. The 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project has an extensive archive of period documents related to the battalion, including many letters and diaries, and they contain no references to any battalion mascot other than Bruno.
Although Beattie made no mention of an earlier mascot in his book, we have long been aware of a well- known 1915 photograph showing a large retriever type dog and a kilted soldier of an unidentified unit of the 1st Contingent taken at Salisbury in 1914. Although the 1st Canadian Contingent only had three kilted units (13th Battalion – Royal Highlanders; 15th Battalion – 48th Highlanders; and the 16th Battalion – The Canadian Scottish) it was not possible to tell which unit the soldier was from because his kilt is covered by an apron and there are no distinguishing insignia on his tunic. The type of glengarry he is wearing rules out the 13th Battalion but as the photograph is not in colour and the cap badge is not visible, he could have been from either the 15th or 16th Battalion. Despite the temptation to draw deductions, on its own and without any corroborating documentary references, there was no way to state that the dog may have been the mascot of the 15th Battalion.
However all that would change as project research over the years gradually uncovered more photographs showing the same dog but with kilted soldiers who definitely identified as members of the 15th Battalion.
The first of these photographs came from the family of 27637 Private David Cunningham Milloy who served with the 15th Battalion from September 1914 to February 1918 initially in No. 2 Company and later with Bn HQ Police. The dog in both photographs, (one with Milloy alone and one with Milloy and other 15th Battalion soldiers) is unquestionably the same dog as the one in the well-known 1915 Salisbury image.
A third photograph came from a gentleman in England when he cleared the home of his mother who had been the close friend and neighbour of the mother of the Pipe Major of the 15th Battalion – 27021 Sergeant Alexander Reid Keith. On her death, Keith’s mother had left items with her neighbor which included Piper Major Keith’s medals and some photographs. One of those photographs showed Keith and 27386 Private (Piper) Alexander Newlands with the same retriever onboard the SS Megantic during the 1st Contingent Atlantic crossing in September 1914.
The final, and conclusive, piece of evidence came in 2017when the Project acquired the photograph albums of the 15th Battalion’s Lieutenant Robert Hay Davidson. The albums contained over 500 high quality photographs covering the period 1914-1916 and most importantly all the photographs were labelled and identified as to contents. One of those photographs also taken onboard the SS Megantic shows the same dog with Pipe Major Keith and another Piper – but this time the dog is identified by name – Max. Additionally, when one considers that one of Pipe Major Keith’s well documented later tasks in France and Belgium was to be the guardian of Bruno whenever the Commanding Officer was away, it is reasonable to deduce that he is shown in the photograph performing that same task but with an earlier mascot the unit brought with them from Canada.
The historical photographic record appears to confirm that the 15th Battalion’s first mascot was a large retriever named Max. The dog appears with members of the battalion in 1914 photographs taken at Valcartier, onboard the SS Megantic and in England on Salisbury Plain. What is not known however is what happened to Max after the battalion’s departure for The Front in February 1915.