You may think that humans are the only species who are awarded trophies, commemorative medals and coins for their epic feats of bravery and derring, but us homo sapiens do not have the last word on courageousness. Over the past century, there’s been hundreds of two- and four-legged animals awarded medals in recognition of their gallantry. Today we’re introducing you to 11 of the furry and feathered champions.
White Vision – Pigeon, 1943
White Vision the Scottish pigeon from Motherwell was one of the very first animals to be awarded the prestigious Dicken medal after successfully delivering a message which contributed to the rescue of the crashed crew of a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat which had ditched in the North Sea close to the Outer Hebrides.
Rip, Jet, Irma & Beauty – Dogs, 1945
On the 12 January 1945, at the height of the Blitz, a mongrel, two Alsatians and a terrier found and rescued many Londoners trapped beneath buildings destroyed by the air raids.
Rob – Dog (Collie), 1945
This incredible collie undertook 20 parachute jumps over North Africa and Italy. His two Dickens medals were not Rob’s only awards, he also picked up an RSPCA silver medal. Woof!
Rifleman Khan – Dog (Alsatian), 1945
This unusually named Alsatian performed an outstanding act of bravery. Under heavy shell fire, Rifleman Khan rescued his handler, James Muldoon, who was drowning after their boat was hit by an enemy shell. Khan swam 200 metres under enemy fire, before dragging Muldoon safely back to shore.
Olga & Upstart – Horses, 1947
Following a flying bomb explosion which hit Tooting, London on 11th April 1947, horses Olga and Upstart (a bay mare and a chestnut gelding respectively) helped the police to control traffic and helped with the rescue operation. During this incident, a bomb landed 75 feet in front of Upstart and his rider, the gelding remained calm and continued with his work.
Simon – Cat, 1947
The only cat to be awarded the Dicken medal, Able Seacat Simon received his award for raising morale and disposing of the rats aboard his ship (H.M.S. Amethyst) despite sustaining significant injuries under fire from Chinese Communist gun batteries. Simon survived the incident. His gravestone in the PDSA Cemetery in East London reads:
IN MEMORY OF “SIMON” SERVED IN H.M.S. AMETHYST MAY 1948 TO NOVEMBER 1949 AWARDED DICKIN MEDAL AUGUST 1949 DIED 28TH NOVEMBER 1949. THROUGHOUT THE YANGTZE INCIDENT HIS BEHAVIOUR WAS OF THE HIGHEST ORDER.
Theo – Dog (Springer Spaniel), 2011
Few animals have been awarded the Dicken medal in recent conflicts. One exception is Theo the springer spaniel who holds the record for the greatest number of finds by an arms and explosives search dog. As an expert detector of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Theo tracked down 14 dangerous devices during his working life.