To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, vet charity PDSA is paying tribute to the hero animals who helped save countless lives during World War II.
PDSA is commemorating them by sharing exclusive e-books – available to download for a limited time only – which tell the remarkable stories of some the animal heroes who were awarded the the PDSA Dickin Medal, known as the animals’ Victoria Cross.
The medal is awarded for “outstanding acts of gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in theatres of war”. It was first awarded to a messenger pigeon named Winkie on 3 December 1943; the recipients thus far include 34 dogs, 32 Pigeons, four horses, and one cat.
Mary Bawn, Head of Press, Voice and Brand at PDSA, said, “Throughout history, animals serving in the Armed Forces have made an extraordinary difference to the lives of so many, not only the men and women who serve, but also civilians who our military are protecting.
“Sharing some of these stories on VE day is a great way to celebrate the incredible, life-saving role animals have played throughout history, and continue to play today.”
To download the free PDSA Dickin Medal e-books, visit www.pdsa.org.uk/VE. The WWII animals honoured include:
Rip – The ‘World’s first Search and Rescue dog’
Rip, a crossbreed terrier, who is often referred to as the ‘World’s first Search and Rescue dog’. He was found on the streets of London by a local Air Raid Warden in 1940.
He had a talent for sniffing out survivors trapped in the blitz rubble and despite never receiving formal training, in just twelve months he helped save the lives of more than 100 people.
Rip was awarded his PDSA Dickin Medal in 1945.
Brian – a parachuting dog
A ‘qualified paratrooper’, Brian (also known as Bing) served with the 13th Battalion Airborne Regiment during WWII. As the D-Day landings began, Brian was parachuted into the Normandy and fought side-by-side with his human allies. He also took part in the final airborne assault of the war.
Brian was presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal in March 1947.
Duke of Normandy (Pigeon No. NURP 41. SBC 219)
Allied paratroopers from the 21st Army Group were dropped behind enemy lines days before D-Day. After their mission ran into numerous problems, the only way to get a message back was a pigeon named Duke of Normandy.
His journey home – through bullets and bombs – took almost 27 hours. But he delivered critical intelligence to the Allied Command – and saved many lives.
Duke of Normandy received his PDSA Dickin Medal on 8 January 1947.