Dickin Medal

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PDSA Dickin Medal
Bronze medal encircled in a laurel wreath and inscribed "PDSA For Gallantry We Also Serve" held from a ring suspender by a ribbon consisting of three equal vertical stripes of dark green, brown and pale blue
The PDSA Dickin Medal (obverse)
Awarded forConspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict.
Presented byPeople's Dispensary for Sick Animals
CountryUnited Kingdom
First awarded1943
Official websitePDSA Dickin Medal


The PDSA Dickin Medal is an award for animals. It was created in the United Kingdom, by Maria Dickin, in 1943. At first, the award's goal was to honor the work of animals during World War II.[1] The award is often called "the animals' Victoria Cross."[1][2][3]

Maria Dickin was the creator of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a British veterinary charity. She created the award for any animal who showed "conspicuous gallantry [obvious bravery]" and devotion to its job while serving with the United Kingdom's armed forces or their allies. The Medal was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949 – to 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, three horses, and one cat.

The PDSA started awarding the Dickin Medal again in 2000. In that year, they honored a Newfoundland dog named Gander. The award was given posthumously - after Gander's death. During the Battle of Hong Kong in World War II, Gander had saved the lives of Canadian soldiers.

In early 2002, three dogs were awarded the Dickin Medal for their work in responding to the September 11 attacks. The PDSA also awarded the Medal to two dogs serving with the British military in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq.

In December 2007, 12 animals who had received the Dickin Medal and were buried at the PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford, Essex, were given full military honors. This marked the end of a project to restore the cemetery, which was aided by the United Kingdom's National Lottery.[4][5]

The first recipients of the Medal, in December 1943, were three pigeons. Serving with the Royal Air Force, all three helped make it possible to rescue air crew from ditched planes during the Second World War.[1] The most recent animal to receive the Medal was Diesel, a dog who was killed while serving with the French police during the November 2015 Paris attacks. Diesel's award will be presented in a ceremony in 2016. As of December 2015, the Dickin Medal has been awarded 66 times.[6]

Medal recipients[change | change source]

Pigeons[change | change source]

Throughout history, homing pigeons have been used to carry messages over long distances. Homing pigeons can find their way home over very long distances.[7] Because of this special ability, homing pigeons have often been used in wars to carry messages. For example, air force flyers could carry homing pigeons in their planes. If a plane started to crash, the airmen could throw the pigeon out of the plane with a message attached to its leg saying where the plane was crashing. The pigeon would find its way back "home" - to a military base - where the message would tell the military where to look for their stranded pilots.[8]

The United Kingdom used about 250,000 homing pigeons in World War II. Of these, 32 were awarded the Dickin Medal for carrying messages that helped save lives:

A pigeon, at rest, facing to the right. It has dark feathers on its head and neck, with two dark stripes two-thirds of the way down its pale wings.
William of Orange was awarded the Medal in 1945 for delivering a message from Operation Market Garden.
Recipient(s) Date of award Notes Ref(s)
White Vision 2 December 1943 Delivered a message that helped rescue a ditched aircrew in October 1943 [9]
[10]
Winkie 2 December 1943 Delivered a message that helped rescue a ditched aircrew in February 1942 [11]
[12]
[13]
Tyke 2 December 1943 Delivered a message that helped rescue a ditched aircrew in June 1943 [14]
Beach Comber 1 September 1944 Brought the first news of the Allied raid on enemy-occupied Dieppe, France, in 1942; served with the Canadian Army [13]
Gustav 1 September 1944 Brought the first message from the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944 [12]
Paddy 1 September 1944 Brought a message from the Normandy invasion quicker than any other pigeon in history, in June 1944 [15]
[16]
Kenley Lass March 1945 First pigeon to deliver military intelligence from an agent in enemy-occupied France in October 1940; served with the National Pigeon Service [17]
Navy Blue March 1945 Delivered a message from a raiding party in France in June 1944, even though he was injured [14]
Flying Dutchman March 1945 Delivered three messages from agents in the Netherlands; went missing in action on the fourth mission in 1944 [14]
Dutch Coast March 1945 Delivered an SOS message from a ditched aircrew in April 1942, flying 288 miles in 7.5 hours [13]
Commando March 1945 Delivered three messages from agents in occupied France; served with the National Pigeon Service [13]
Royal Blue March 1945 First pigeon of the war to deliver a message from a plane that crashed in Europe, in October 1940 [14]
Ruhr Express May 1945 Carried an important message from the Ruhr Pocket, a major battle in Germany, in April 1945 [14]
William of Orange May 1945 The fastest pigeon ever to deliver a message from Operation Market Garden, a major Allied operation in the Netherlands and Germany; served with the National Pigeon Service (Army) [18]
Scotch Lass June 1945 Brought 38 small photographs across the North Sea from the Netherlands in September 1944, even though she was injured [14]
Billy August 1945 Delivered a message from a bomber which had been forced to land his plane in 1942 [14]
Broad Arrow October 1945 Brought three important messages from Europe to the United Kingdom in 1943; served with the National Pigeon Service (Special Section) [14]
NPS.42.NS.2780 October 1945 Brought three important messages from Europe to the U.K. in 1942 and 1943; served with the National Pigeon Service (Special Section) [14]
NPS.42.NS.7524 October 1945 Brought three important messages from Europe to the U.K. in 1942 and 1943; served with the National Pigeon Service (Special Section) [14]
Maquis October 1945 Brought three important messages from Europe to the U.K. in 1943 and 1944; served with the National Pigeon Service (Special Section) [14]
Mary of Exeter November 1945 Showed "outstanding endurance [in] war service" even though she was injured [10]
[13]
Tommy February 1946 Delivered a message from the Netherlands to Lancashire in July 1942; served with the National Pigeon Service [14]
All Alone February 1946 Delivered an important message, flying over 400 miles in one day in August 1943; served with the National Pigeon Service [14]
Princess May 1946 Flew a special mission bringing important information to Crete, flying more than 500 miles over sea [12]
Mercury August 1946 Did a special job that required a 480-mile flight from Northern Denmark in 1942; served with the National Pigeon Service (Special Section) [19]
NURP.38.BPC.6 August 1946 Made three flights in 1941; served with the National Pigeon Service (Special Section) [14]
G.I. Joe August 1946 Flew 20 miles in 20 minutes to deliver a message which saved over 100 lives; served with the United States Army Pigeon Service [12]
Cologne 1947 Flew "home" to deliver a message from a crashed airplane over Cologne in 1943, even though he was injured [12]
Duke of Normandy 8 January 1947 The first pigeon to bring a message from Paratroops of the British 21st Army Group on D-Day (6 June 1944); served with the National Pigeon Service [13]
NURP.43.CC.1418 8 January 1947 The fastest pigeon ever to carry a message to the U.K. from the British 6th Airborne Division at Normandy, 7 June 1944; served with the National Pigeon Service [14]
DD.43.T.139 February 1947 Brought a message from a sinking ship in the Huon Gulf in time to save it and its cargo; served with the Royal Australian Corps of Signals [13]
DD.43.Q.879 February 1947 The only survivor of three pigeons released to warn of a coming counter-attack on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. The pigeon reached headquarters in time for a U.S. Marine Corps patrol to get to safety. Also served with the Royal Australian Corps of Signals [17]

Horses[change | change source]

Horses have been used in wars for over 5,000 years. By World War II, they were usually not used in battle. However, they were used for scout units, and also to carry soldiers and supplies.[20]

Recipient(s) Date of award Notes Ref(s)
Olga 11 April 1947 Controlled traffic and helped with rescue operations after a flying bomb exploded in South London; served with the U.K. police [9]
[13]
Upstart 11 April 1947 Controlled traffic after a flying bomb exploded in Bethnal Green, Greater London; served with the U.K. police [9]
[13]
Regal 11 April 1947 Stayed calm in stable fires caused by fire bombs, on two separate occasions [9]
[13]
Warrior 2 September 2014 Honorary award to a World War I warhorse to honor the contributions of all animals during that war [6]

Dogs[change | change source]

A dog receiving a medal while surrounded by a number of men in military uniform
Rob the Collie, receiving his medal
A dog standing in the remains of a destroyed building
Rip helped find many victims of The Blitz.
A dog sitting on the deck of a ship, being spoken to by a man in a military uniform
Judy was a ship's dog on both the HMS Gnat and the HMS Grasshopper.
Recipient(s) Date of award Notes Ref(s)
Bob 24 March 1944 A mongrel who worked on patrol at Green Hill, North Africa; served with the 6th Battalion Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment [13]
Rip 1945 A mongrel who found many trapped victims of the The Blitz, when Nazi Germany bombed the United Kingdom badly [21]
Jet 12 January 1945 A German Shepherd who helped rescue people trapped under bombed buildings; served with the Civil Defence Service [9]
[13]
Irma 12 January 1945 A German Shepherd who helped rescue people trapped under bombed buildings; served with the Civil Defence Service [9]
[22]
Beauty 12 January 1945 A Wire-haired Terrier who helped find buried victims of The Blitz; served with a PDSA Rescue Squad [9]
Rob 22 January 1945 A Collie who made over 20 parachute jumps during fighting in North Africa; served with the Special Air Service (SAS) [9]
[11]
[13]
Thorn 2 March 1945 A German Shepherd who found bombing victims in a burning building; served with the Civil Defence Service [23]
Rifleman Khan 27 March 1945 A German Shepherd who rescued a soldier from drowning while under heavy shell fire during an attack on Walcheren, an island in the Netherlands, in November 1944; served with the 6th Battalion Cameronians, a regiment of Scottish riflemen in the British Army [23]
Rex April 1945 A German Shepherd who found bombing victims in burning buildings; served with the Civil Defence Service [13]
Sheila 2 July 1945 A Collie who helped rescue four American airmen lost on the Cheviot Hills (on the border between England and Scotland). They got lost in a blizzard after their plane crashed in December 1944 [13]
Peter November 1945 A Collie who found bombing victims trapped in burning buildings; served with the Civil Defence Service [9]
[22]
Judy May 1946 A pedigree Pointer who helped keep morale high among fellow prisoners in a Japanese prisoner of war camp [13]
Punch and Judy November 1946 Two Boxers who saved two British officers in Palestine by attacking a nationalist who wanted to kill the officers [24]
Ricky 29 March 1947 A Welsh Collie who found mines along a canal bank at Nederweert in the Netherlands, even though he was injured by one [13]
Bing (Brian) 29 March 1947 A German Shepherd who parachuted into Normandy with the U.K.'s 13th Battalion, 6th Airborne Division [9]
[25]
Antis 28 January 1949 A German Shepherd who served with a Czech airman in the French Air Force in North Africa. Antis helped his master escape after the death of Czech diplomat Jan Masaryk [26]
Tich 1 July 1949 A mongrel who was awarded for his "courage and devotion between 1941–45. He served with the 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps [21]
Gander 27 October 2000 A Newfoundland who saved Canadian soldiers on at least three separate occasions during the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. Gander was killed in action gathering a grenade [22]
Appollo 5 March 2002 A German Shepherd who received the Dickin Medal in honor of all of the search and rescue dogs who tried to find victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks [27]
Salty and Roselle 5 March 2002 Two Labrador Retriever guide dogs who led their blind owners down more than 70 flights of stairs to escape from the damaged World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks [27]
Sam 14 January 2003 A German Shepherd who brought down an armed man and held back rioters while serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina in April 1998; served with The Royal Canadian Regiment on assignment from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps [28]
Buster 9 December 2003 An English Springer Spaniel who found a weapons arsenal in Southern Iraq in March 2003; served with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment [11]
[13]
Lucky 6 February 2007 A German Shepherd who was the only member of a four-dog team to survive tracking nationalists in Malaya from 1949 to 1952. He served with the Royal Air Force Police [29]
Sadie 6 February 2007 A Labrador Retriever who found bombs, which soldiers then were able to disarm, while serving in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2005. Served with the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment [30]
Treo 24 February 2010 A Labrador-Spaniel mix who found improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while serving in Afghanistan in August and September 2008; served with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps [31][32]
Theo 25 October 2012 A Springer Spaniel who found improvised explosive devices while serving in Afghanistan. He found a total of 14 IEDs, which is the most ever to be found by an arms and explosives search dog. He died from an apparent seizure after his handler was killed by enemy fire earlier that day. [33]
Sasha 29 April 2014 A Labrador who found 15 mortars, mines, IEDs, and weapons while serving in Afghanistan, with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. In July 2008, Sasha and her handler were killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in an attack by the Taliban.[34] [35]
Diesel TBC A Belgian Malinois Research, Assistance, Intervention, Deterrence (RAID) assault dog that worked with the French police. Diesel was killed by suspected terrorists while serving with the police during the November 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris. [36]

Cat[change | change source]

See also: Famous Ship's Cats: Simon

Recipient(s) Date of award Notes Ref(s)
Simon August 1949 Simon was the HMS Amethyst's ship's cat. He received the Dickin Medal posthumously (after his death) for "gallantry [bravery] under fire" during the Yangtze Incident in 1949. Even though he was injured, Simon kept up the morale of fellow sailors, and killed many rats who were destroying the remains of the Amethyst. [21]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "PDSA Dickin Medal". PDSA. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  2. "Military search dog to receive animals' Victoria Cross". Ministry of Defence. 8 February 2010. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  3. "The Animals' VC". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 3 March 2010.
  4. Clout, Laura (14 December 2007). "A better resting place for the animal VCs". The Daily Telegraph. p. 12.
  5. "Celebrity to open animal Garden of Remembrance". PDSA. Retrieved 2 March 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "World War One: Warhorse Warrior awarded Dickin Medal". BBC News. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
  7. Levi, Wendell (1977 Pg82). The Pigeon. Sumter, S.C.: Levi Publishing Co, Inc. ISBN 0853900132. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  8. Van Wyen, Adrian O. (1969). Naval Aviation in World War I. Washington, D.C.: Chief of Naval Operations. p. 30.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 "UK honors glow worm war heroes". CNN. 24 November 2004. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bell, Sarah (13 December 2007). "Fitting tribute to animal heroes". BBC News. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Animal war heroes statue unveiled". BBC News. 24 November 2004. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Herbert, Ian (23 March 2005). "The hero of the latest British war movie is a pigeon called Valiant. A flight of fancy? No, it's based on real life". The Independent. London. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  13. 13.00 13.01 13.02 13.03 13.04 13.05 13.06 13.07 13.08 13.09 13.10 13.11 13.12 13.13 13.14 13.15 13.16 13.17 "Animals at War captions" (PDF). Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 "Dickin medal pigeons". PDSA. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  15. Shulman, Calvin (11 December 2007). "Top 50 greatest sporting animals". The Times. London. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  16. "Paddy the pigeon decorated for bravery in fight against Hitler". The Belfast Telegraph. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Clive D. L. Wynne. Do animals think?. Princeton University Press. p. 153. ISBN 0-691-11311-4.
  18. "Royal Signals Museum – Recent Articles". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  19. "Catch the Pigeon". National Army Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  20. CNN, By Alex Quade, Special to. "Monument honors U.S. 'horse soldiers' who invaded Afghanistan". CNN.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Ilford Animal Cemetery". PDSA. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Judd, Terri (16 August 2000). "'Animal VC' will honour Gander's dash for grenade". The Independent. London. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Dickin medal dogs". People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  24. "Dickin medal dogs". PDSA. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  25. "The PDSA Dickin Medal". Paradata.org.uk. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  26. Velinger, Jan (18 March 2009). "The story of a Czech WW II airman and his remarkable dog". Radio Prague. Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Life Saving" (PDF). Imperial War Museum London. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 January 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  28. Tibbetts, Graham (20 December 2002). "Army dog Sam wins a posthumous 'VC'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  29. Gabbatt, Adam (24 February 2010). "Heroic labrador awarded animals' Victoria Cross". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  30. "In pictures: Sadie the hero dog gets a medal". BBC. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  31. Heyhoe, Dave (2012). It's All About Treo: Life and War with the World's Bravest Dog. London: Quercus. ISBN 978-1-780-87396-1.
  32. "Sniffer dog Treo is honoured with PDSA Dickin Medal". BBC News. 24 February 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  33. "Army dog given posthumous medal for Afghanistan work". BBC News. 25 October 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  34. "Army dog killed in Afghanistan given posthumous medal". BBC News. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  35. "British army dog awarded bravery medal for work in Afghanistan". The Guardian. London. 29 April 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  36. "Tragic French Police Dog Diesel to receive supreme honour for gallantry". PDSA. 27 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.