John Evans and Jamie the Sniffer Dog
The Charity Operation Christmas Box-Thanks! sends over 20,000 Christmas Boxes to British Forces on operations overseas on Christmas Day each year.
Just before Christmas 2008 Allan Sims, one of the Charity Trustees, received at his home in West Chiltington, Sussex a shoebox sized parcel addressed to Jamie the Springer Spaniel Sniffer Dog – somewhere in Afghanistan. The sender had put his name and address as John Evans, Abergele.
Although the Charity does not send boxes which have been supplied by the general public, Allan (being a dog lover) decided that he would do his best to trace this mystery dog. In his work with the Charity Allan gets many ‘phone calls from people returning from Afghanistan who want to say ‘thank you’ for the boxes they have received from the Charity. Each was asked if they had any knowledge of the whereabouts of this dog. The answers were never just right – several sniffer dogs were known, most with different names and one called Jamie who wasn’t a Springer Spaniel.
The task seemed impossible until over 2 months later, when an RAF Group Captain sent an email to Allan saying he had found the dog at last and would forward details of the name and address of the handler, a Lance Corporal.
Allan decided to find the telephone number of John Evans in Abergele and tell him the great news, expecting the man to be as thrilled as he was. Allan’s wife, knowing all the efforts which had been made, wanted the ‘phone on loudspeaker so that she could hear his reaction.
The ‘phone rang, a woman answered and Allan asked to speak to John. There was silence! Allan asked again and heard a sound like a stifled sob before the woman enquired “What did you want to speak to John about?” Allan explained about the parcel addressed to the Springer Spaniel and was devastated to be told “I’m sorry, but John is dead”.
After a short period of utter confusion and bewilderment, the woman, Barbara – John’s widow, became composed and spent the next 20 minutes recounting the story of sending the Box.
A few days before Christmas 2008, a story was relayed on BBC radio about a Springer Spaniel sniffer dog called Jamie who had been sent to Afghanistan to assist British troops in detecting explosives. The story stated that Jamie had gone on his heroic mission without any toys – not so much as a tennis ball to play with.
John Evans listened to this programme at home in Abergele whilst suffering from pneumonia. Being a dog lover and seeing all the toys his own dogs had, he was so moved by the story that, in spite of his dreadful condition, he asked his wife, Barbara, to put together a box of toys and send them to relieve the dog’s plight.
Barbara duly made up a box of toys but had no idea where to send them. She had heard of a charity which had sent 24,500 Christmas Boxes to the troops and searched the internet to find it and discovered the address www.Operation Christmas Box.org.
Barbara then got John to put his name and his old RAF service number on the box and addressed it to ‘Jamie, the Springer Spaniel sniffer dog – somewhere in Afghanistan c/o Operation Christmas Box-Thanks West Chiltington RH20 2JY’. A short while later John passed away, having first made sure that the parcel had been sent.
The Box arrived at the home of Allan Sims and the rest of the story you now know.
When the ‘phone conversation ended, Allan turned to his wife who was in floods of tears, as he was himself at this unbelievable and moving story.
The Box was then sent to Afghanistan where it was received by Jim, the handler, and unwrapped by Jamie who proceeded to have fun with his new box of goodies.
Several photographs are available and are being printed courtesy of the Ministry of Defence and presented to Barbara, who will treasure them as precious memories of her late husband, his love of animals and the granting of his dying wish courtesy of the Charity.
The Charity needs support to help it send the Christmas Box to every member of the Armed Forces on duty overseas or in hospital at Christmas. Donations of any size are always welcome so please make a donation