We Also Serve

Year 3-8 boys enjoyed going on a termly ‘Expeditions Day’ this week. What a fantastic experience! Year 3 and 4 celebrated their ‘Storms and Shipwrecks’ topic with an adventure aboard The Cutty Sark, whilst Y5 enjoyed a role play day learning all about life in World War II. Y6 and 7 immersed themselves in a fascinating science experience at The ExCeL Centre (some of the boys spoke to Tim Peake!), while Y8 learned about World War I, The Holocaust and winners of the Victoria Cross at The Imperial War Museum.
What about Selkie, the Headmaster’s dog? Well she used her time wisely by writing her termly dog blog. Her attention was particularly caught by Y8’s visit to the Victoria Cross Gallery at The Imperial War Museum. People can be heroes: can animals too?

Well…the answer is of course yes! Animals have their very own version of the Victoria Cross: the highest award for bravery a human can win. It is called The Dickin Medal, which was introduced in 1943, during World War II. The medal bears the words: ‘For Gallantry’ and ‘We Also Serve’ within a laurel wreath. It is awarded to animals that have displayed ‘conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units’.

So, which animals have won The Dickin Medal? The medal was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949 – to 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, three horses, and a ship’s cat. The awarding of the medal was revived in 2000. The first recipients of the award, in December 1943, were three pigeons serving with the Royal Air Force who contributed to the recovery of aircrews from ditched aircraft. The most recent animal to receive a medal is Kuga, a Belgian Malinois, who served with the Australian Special Air Service Regiment in Afghanistan in 2012.
Here are three stories about dogs who have received The Dickin Medal:
Rip was a mixed-breed terrier, who was a rescue dog in the Second World War. He was found in Poplar, London, in 1940, by an Air Raid Warden, and became the service’s first search and rescue dog. He was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery, in 1945, for saving the lives of over 100 people. Here is a photograph of Rip searching through the wreckage of a building destroyed during a German bombing raid; also, his gravestone:

Rob, a collie dog, was awarded the Dickin Medal, in 1945, for taking part in more than 20 parachute drops and for his involvement in operations behind enemy lines in Italy and North Africa during the Second World War. There is evidence that his record is a hoax made up by the SAS training officer at the time so that the dog would remain with the regiment! Here is a photo of Rob receiving his medal:

Salty and Roselle were two guide dogs who bravely led their blind owners down more than 70 flights of stairs to escape from the damaged World Trade Centre in September 2001. Selkie particularly liked this story! Here are the men Salty and Roselle rescued.

Courage and devotion to serving the needs of others, be it by human or animal, is a quality to be admired, particularly in a time of crisis.