|Suddenly he was on his feet and barking loudly, beginning a wild war dance for joy, tearing round and round the group of waiting men as if hed gone half-mad.
As C for Cecilia touched down, he could hardly contain his excitement. He waited until the hatches opened, as hed been trained to do, then bolted forward, and was at the bottom of the ladder as his master stepped down.
It was a pattern that would repeat itself scores of times that summer as hostilities progressed.
In June 1941 Roberts 311 Squadron was tasked to bomb the railway yard in Hamm, in the west of Germany.
The trusty Wellingtons, C for Cecilia included, were prepared for the coming sortie. As ever, Antis dozed near the runway once they had taken off.
It was 1am when he awoke from a long sleep as if from a sudden shock. He began to shiver. Then, quite suddenly, he threw his head back at the heavens and began to howl. It was a sound that none of the men had heard him make before: hollow, full of loss, spine-chilling.
Cecilias in trouble, shouted one. Antis can sense it. God knows how, but he can.
Two hundred miles to the south east where an aerial battle raged over Occupied Europe, a shard of metal was punching through the Wellingtons Perspex gun turret, shattering it and burying itself in Roberts forehead. The time was 1am precisely.
As blood poured into his eyes, the crippled Cecilia began to lose height. The coast of England was looming before her, a dark line on the blacked out horizon. The plane hurtled towards the cliffs.
Back at East Wretham the groundcrew waited for news. But nobody could get Antis to abandon his lonely vigil, even as rain lashed the airbase.
Late in the afternoon welcome intelligence arrived that the plane had been coaxed over the cliffs before its engine gave out, and had landed safely, in Norfolk. Robert had been taken to hospital and was likely to be there for several days.
But nobody could think how to pass on the news to his dog. If he continued to refuse food and shelter, hed die.
It was the squadrons padre who came up with the idea of asking the hospital to let Robert out for a few hours to rescue his faithful companion. For the second night running, the staff at East Wretham covered the ravenous Antis with blankets, and prayed that hed make it.
At dawn the next morning a car raced up the perimeter track. In the back was a bandaged, bruised Robert.
He sank to the ground beside his dog. A tongue flicked out and licked his masters face tentatively.
Through the smell of lint and iodine, Antis could detect the familiar taste and scent. His tail thumped weakly as he tried unsuccessfully to stand.
But he couldnt do it. Instead the wounded airman picked up his dog and cradling him in his arms, carried him to the waiting car.
It was late June when C for Cecilia was ready to take to the skies again. And for the first time Antis was nowhere to be seen as the crew completed their pre-flight checks and took to the air.
On board the plane, Robert tried to ignore his nagging anxiety. Maybe this was to be expected after the dogs long and traumatic vigil during the previous mission.
The airman forced himself to focus on the dark skies ahead. They would soon be over the German coast, and danger beckoned.
Feeling a touch on his elbow he turned, expecting it to be the navigator with an important instruction.
It wasnt. It was a German Shepherd, lying prone on the floor. Robert shook his head. It must be the altitude playing tricks. And yet there he was.
Antis must somehow have crept aboard the aircraft and stowed away, careful to stay hidden until there was nothing anybody could do about it.
Recovering from the shock, Robert saw that the dogs flanks were heaving. They were climbing to 16,000ft, and Antis was having increasing trouble breathing in the thin atmosphere.
Taking a massive gasp, the airman unstrapped the oxygen mask from his face and pressed it firmly over his dogs muzzle. They shared the oxygen for the rest of the flight.
The plane dropped its payload on to the city of Bremens oil refinery and turned for home, surviving night fighters, ground fire and the threat of barrage balloons to make it safely back to East Wretham, where Robert prepared to face the music.
Everybody knew it was strictly against Britains Air Ministry regulations to take an animal into the air, especially when flying a combat sortie over enemy territory.
No prizes for guessing where Antis has spent the night, then, said the Wing Commander.
Sir, please let me explain... began Robert.
His superior threw up a hand. Theres a very good English expression, he said. What the eye doesnt see, the heart doesnt grieve after.
Antis continued to serve as 311 Squadrons mascot for the rest of the war. In 1949 he was formally recognised as a war hero when he was awarded the Dickin medal - commonly known as the Animal Victoria Cross.
In 1951, Robert Bozdech was granted British nationality. Just two years later, alas, man and dog were parted for ever. After all they had been through Antis the hero, talisman and warrior, died at the age of 14. His gravestone bears the simple words in Czech: Loyal unto death.
Robert married a British girl soon afterwards and they settled in the West Country to bring up their family.
He continued to serve with the RAF, including a combat deployment to Suez. But he never got another dog, and refused to allow his children one either. After Antis, the war dog, he swore he would never own one again.
Adapted from War Dog: The No-Mans Land Puppy Who Took To The Skies by Damien Lewis, published by Sphere at £12.99. © Damien Lewis 2013.
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