Smallfield soldier who founded Army's first dog unit made OBE
A SOLDIER who founded the Army's first dog regiment has been made an OBE for his service and dedication to the unit.
Lieutenant Colonel David Thorpe, who received his commendation in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, left his home in Smallfield aged 17 to join the Army as an engineer in the infantry, but took command of the inaugural dog regiment in 2008.
The 45-year-old transferred to a new post, training support personnel at the start of the month, but was surprised when his boss called to say he had been nominated for the honour.
"I was very chuffed," the father-of-two said.
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"I'll go up to the palace with my wife and children, it will be very exciting.
"My wife is very excited that she will get to wear a hat.
"I had no idea until I got the call. But it was a team effort, it was not just me setting it up."
Lieutenant Colonel Thorpe has spent the last four years travelling back and forth from the regiment's bases in Aldershot and North Luffenham in England and the Regimental HQ Chiron Barracks in Sennelager, Germany.
Search dogs called "sniffers" and attack dogs known as "biters", were drawn together into the five squadrons of the 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, and Lieutenant Colonel Thorpe jumped at the chance to take control.
He said: "It is very rare in the Army you get the chance to set up a regiment, they tend to be cutting regiments more than setting them up.
"I didn't see it coming when it was offered to me, it was an opportunity and I jumped at the chance."
The sniffer dogs are used for search and rescue, while the attack dogs provide protection to bases or soldiers on patrol. The regiment's 220 dogs and 450 soldiers have been deployed in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lieutenant Colonel Thorpe's military career has moved him around the world, but his latest post, training for the Military Stabilisation Support Group which helps war zones rebuild after the conflict has ended, brings him back to his family in the UK and the chance to visit his childhood home more often.
"Smallfield is getting bigger," he said. "More houses are appearing, I remember it as a small village."