The PDSA Dickin Medal, recognised as the animals’ Victoria Cross, is awarded to animals displaying conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units.
During the Second World War, the founder of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), Maria Dickin CBE was aware of incredible bravery displayed by animals on active service and the Home Front. Inspired by the animals’ devotion to man and duty, she introduced a special medal specifically for animals in war. It became an official award to recognise animal contributions to the British war effort.
The Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.
The Medal, which can only be considered on receipt of an official commendation, was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949. The recipients comprised 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, three horses and one cat. There have been 63 Dickin Medals have been awarded to date.
The citations on the Roll of Honour, which can be found here, are a moving and unique insight into the role animals play in the service of man in times of war.
The Dickin Medal was awarded to two Para Dogs:
Brian - A 'Para Dog' with 13th (South Lancs) Parachute Battalion. He was a Scout Patrol dog who jumped into combat in Normandy. After having completed the requisite number of jumps he became a fully-qualified Paratrooper. He was awarded the Dickin Medal in March 1947.
Rob - A 'Para Dog' with the Special Air Service. He initially took part in landings during the North African Campaign with an Infantry unit and later served with a Special Air Unit in Italy as patrol and guard on small detachments lying-up in enemy territory. His presence with these parties saved many of them from discovery and subsequent capture or destruction. Rob made over 20 parachute descents. He was awarded the Dickin Medal in January 1945.
The Dickin Medal was also awarded to two messenger pigeons:
William of Orange - A pigeon with the 2nd Parachute Battalion Signals Section. The medal was awarded for the delivery of a message from Arnhem in a record time in September 1944. The medal was awarded in May 1945.
Duke of Normandy - A pigeon with the 6th Airborne Divisional Signals. The medal was awarded for being the first bird to arrive with a message on D-Day. The medal was awared on 8 January 1947.
People's Dispensary for Sick Animals website: Click here