Geoffrey Hardwick

(1890-1954) - Ferrets at the Front

Major Hardwick, 57th Field Ambulance RAMC, the son of Newquay’s town doctor, smuggled pet ferrets to the front to control rats in the trenches. The ferrets were sent ‘on a trial run among the shell holes’. The old buck ferret ‘almost immediately got first blood' killing a decent-sized rat.

Credit: Newquay Heritage Archive and Museum

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Major Arthur Geoffrey Pattison Hardwick, of 57th Field Ambulance RAMC, was the son of Newquay’s town doctor and smuggled a pair of pet ferrets to the trenches to deal with that other enemy: rats.

One morning in 1918 Hardwick boarded a train from Newquay to Paddington.  He had arranged to meet his brother, Alan, who was undergoing gunnery training, at Paddington. Meanwhile, the ferrets travelled in the corridor: ‘their smell was a bit stronger than their bite’.

That night was spent in a hotel room at the Ritz with the ferrets noisily scratching. Hardwick was worried that guests would complain.

Once safely across the Channel, Hardwick found his Division near Cambrai and ate a dinner of oysters and lobster at a local restaurant. Journeying to Peronne he spent the night with people from the Motor Ambulance Convoy (MAC). The ferrets’ popularity in the officers’ mess ceased when ‘the little beggars forgot themselves in all four corners of the room’.

Two days later the ferrets proved their worth when they were sent ‘on a trial run amongst the shell holes’. The old buck ferret ‘almost immediately got first blood. He killed a decent-sized rat in a blind hole’. As Hardwick said, the ferrets ‘were alright’.

Geoffrey Hardwick was the eldest son of Newquay’s doctor and had attended Blundell’s School in Devon.  Geoff qualified in medicine in 1915, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) as a regular, and saw service in France from July 1915 to the end of the war. He was mentioned in despatches and awarded the Military Cross. He later went to Mesopotamia and held the Kurdistan Medal and Bar. Geoff returned to Newquay on the death of his father Arthur in 1926, when he took on the family practice and also assumed the role of District Medical Officer for many years. A prominent member of the local community he died at his home, Island Crescent, Newquay on 16th December 1954 and was buried at Fairpark Cemetery, St. Columb Minor, Newquay.

Key words: trenches, animals

Credit: Newquay Archive and Museum.  Obituary photo of Geoff Hardwick and photo of his father, Dr Hardwick senior, attending weather-recording equipment at Newquay.