Heroic actions of animals ‘who also serve’ honoured for eight decades by the animals’ VC
Leading vet charity PDSA is celebrating an immense milestone; eight decades of honouring animals with the PDSA Dickin Medal* – the animals’ Victoria Cross.
80 years ago, at the height of World War II, messenger pigeons Winkie, White Vision and Tyke became the first recipients of the PDSA Dickin Medal, which is awarded to animals that display conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict.
Since then, 75 incredible, life-saving animals have been honoured with the Medal – including 38 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses and 1 cat. War Horse Warrior was awarded an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal on behalf of all animals that served in the Great War**.
Jan McLoughlin, PDSA Director General, said: “We are incredibly proud to be celebrating 80 years of the PDSA Dickin Medal, and as such recognising all of its incredible recipients.
“The PDSA Dickin Medal has demonstrated time and time again how absolutely vital animals are to the war effort. They bring a unique set of skills that no man, woman or machine could match.
“From our first-ever pigeon recipient in 1943 to German Shepherd Bass, our most recent PDSA Dickin Medal recipient earlier this year, every single animal who has been awarded the Medal over the years is remembered and celebrated today.”
PDSA was founded by Maria Dickin CBE on 17 November 1917, to alleviate the suffering of animals and help relieve poverty by providing free veterinary treatment to pets in need.
A quarter of a century later Maria saw the vital, life-saving roles animals were playing in the war effort – both on the home front and the front line – and wanted to ensure they were recognised.
Maria hoped if she could raise the status of animals in society it would improve their care. So, with the support of the War Office and Imperial War Museum, 1943 saw the inception of the PDSA Dickin Medal.
Recipients of the prestigious Medal hail from histories deadliest warzones. From the battlegrounds of World War I and II, to the Korean War and Chinese Civil War, and the more recent conflict in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.
PDSA Dickin Medal recipients through the years:
Hertz the dog
Military Working Dog Hertz was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal in 2022 for his courageous acts in the Royal Air Force Police. He was responsible for finding more than 100 items of contraband including Personal Electronic Devices, which posed a threat to the lives of servicemen, women and civilians. Hertz’s important work was showcased when not a single rocket attack was launched on Camp Bastion during the 13 months he was on tour.
White Vision the pigeon
White Vision earned her award for delivering messages under exceptionally difficult conditions and so contributing to the rescue of an air crew while serving with the Royal Air Force. In 1942, when bad weather and shortage of fuel forced the crew of a Catalina flying boat to ditch in the sea near the Hebrides, pigeon White Vision was released in their only hope of raising the alarm. Nine hours later the crew were lifted off just in the nick of time. Her bravery and determination ultimately saved the lives of 11 men.
Simon the cat
Simon was a well-respected cat on HMS Amethyst during the summer of 1949, for he was all that stood between the rats and the crew’s essential supplies. In the height of the Chinese Civil War, Simon and his comrades were caught in an attack that left them injured and some killed. Despite wounds to Simon’s legs and burns to his back and face, Simon remained an integral part of the crew. The rats were big and fierce, but this didn’t stop Simon killing them. The crew were so impressed with him, they promoted him to ‘Able Seaman’ in recognition of this achievement. His devotion to hunting the rats ultimately kept the crew alive and fed.
Warrior the horse
Known to many as ‘The Horse the Germans couldn’t kill’, Warrior’s story is one of the most remarkable tales of animal bravery and endurance to emerge from the Great War. Warrior and General Jack Seely commanded three regiments of the Canadian Cavalry, leading the charge at some of the bloodiest and most infamous battles of World War 1. Trapped in burning stables twice, buried in rubble and mud, and regularly subjected to intensive attack from machine guns and mortar shells, Warrior survived it all. Warrior was awarded the Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal in 2014 to mark 100 years since the start of the Great War and on behalf of all animals that served.
The PDSA Dickin Medal – which is often referred to as the animals’ equivalent of the Victoria Cross – 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 sky blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.
Over a century after the charity was founded, PDSA is the UK’s vet charity which strives to keep pets and people together in times of financial hardship. Every day in our 48 Pet Hospitals, PDSA protects the special bond between owners and their four-legged friends. The charity’s vets and nurses provide veterinary care to sick and injured pets whose owners otherwise would have nowhere else to turn.
Find out more pdsa.org.uk/dickinmedal