By Rachael Grealish
As a nation although we celebrated VE Day in lockdown we thought about all the men and women who fought, gave their lives and never gave up for the country.
Along with those we must not forget our four-legged and feathered fighters who also saw Great Britain to victory – which is why the PDSA are honouring the animals of WWII.
In 1943 the PDSA issued the Dickin Medal – aka the animal’s Victoria cross and so far it has been awarded 71 times (including one honorary medal).
These have gone to 34 dogs, 32 Pigeons, four horses and one cat.
Some of these animals served alongside our military on the front line, while others helped war efforts in other ways. No matter how they helped, they all showed incredible bravery and dedication to doing their job.
During WWII a good number of Dickin Medals were awarded, but the PDSA is remembering five specific animals – Rip, Brian, Rob, GI Joe and Duke of Normandy.
Rip was a crossbreed terrier who became the Air Raid Patrol’s first official search and rescue dog when he was taken in as a stray in 1940.
Throughout the London Blitz, Rip and his ARP colleagues worked tirelessly to locate and rescue people and animals trapped in the wreckage of bombed out buildings. In just twelve months, Rip is believed to have helped save the lives of more than 100 people.
A ‘qualified paratrooper’, Brian, also known as Bing, served with the 13th Battalion Airborne Regiment.
When war broke out, he was growing fast and eating far more than the Fetch family from Loughborough’s small ration could sustain, so they answered the country’s call and Brian joined up with the Army War Dog Training School.
Following his training, Brian was posted to the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion. Selected to take part in a two-week parachute training course with the ‘scout and sniper unit,’ he was one of only three dogs to successfully finish the course and jumped into action seven times.
Rob the Collie crossbreed served with the 2nd Special Air Service Regiment. During World War II he became known as the ‘Para dog’, after completing over 20 parachute drops – many of which landed in enemy territory.
On one mission, Rob was dropped with a party of paratroopers behind enemy lines where they remained for many months. They faced incredible dangers and through it all, Rob never failed to keep guard and display faultless devotion to duty.
G.I. Joe (Pigeon USA43SC6390), a member of the United States Army Pigeon Service, was released with a message to call off the attack.
He flew 20 miles in 20 minutes, reaching Allied lines just as the bombers were preparing to take off. His heroics prevented the loss of at least 100 Allied soldiers’ lives and countless civilians.
Allied paratroopers from the 21st Army Group were dropped behind enemy lines days before D-Day, along with the Duke of Normandy in a small basket. Their mission was to ensure the guns were out of action and relay that information back to Allied Command.
The mission ran into numerous problems, with many of the troops failing to make the rendezvous and critically, radios going missing. Despite this, around 150 paratroopers launched an assault and managed to disable the battery.
Without radio equipment, their only way to get a message back was to release Duke of Normandy with news of the operation’s success.
The Duke’s journey home took almost 27 hours. He flew through bullets and bombs – it’s estimated that an unbelievable seven million pounds of high explosives were used that day.
You can read all these brave animal’s stories here.