Tuesday 30 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge

 

Seal of Maharashtra, India
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about hereThey are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters. 

 My final post for the A to Z challenge again features a dog that was not  awarded the Dickin Medal, though he was certainly a brave and skilful boy, and two other very different dogs.

Z

Zanjeer  1992-2000

‘You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.’

Robert Louis Stevenson 1850-1894

Zanjeer was a yellow Labrador Retriever working with the Police Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. His handlers were Ganesh Andale and V G Rajput.

During the 1993 terrorist bomb attacks in Mumbai, which killed more than 250 people and injured several hundred more, Zanjeer averted further disasters, and saved countless more lives by detecting explosive devices, weapons and live ammunition. He used his distinctive three bark call to call attention to a scooter packed with explosives. Then he detected weapons and grenades among ten abandoned suitcases outside a temple.  Days after that he indicated two cases which contained rifles.

In addition to his work during the Mumbai bombing campaign, over the course of his police career, Zanjeer’s nose led to the discovery of more than 240 bombs, 250 grenades, over 7,300 pounds of RDX, (a key component of Semtex) 600 detonators and over 6000 rounds of ammunition as well as hundreds of weapons.

Zanjeer developed bone cancer and died in 2000. He was granted a full state funeral, adorned with flowers, and buried with full honours, his nation’s hero.

 

Zappi



                                Scuola Italiana Cani da Salvataggio

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

‘Every dog must have his day’

Jonathan Swift 1667-1745

Zappi works on the island of Sardinia as an emergency rescue dog in the Mediterranean. Like others in his unit, he jumps into the sea from a helicopter to rescue people in difficulties in the water.

SICS, Scuola Italiana Cani da Salvataggio, (Italian Rescue Dog School) is dedicated to training dogs and their handlers in sea rescue. To be able to train, dogs must weigh more than 30 kg and be strong swimmers. A single dog may be asked to tow a boat with 30 people on board. It may also be expected to help a human rescuer conduct resuscitation in water. To train for this, human and dog swim side by side, to match each other’s pace.

SICS organises annual helicopter rescue courses for dogs and regularly takes part in exercises with all Italian helicopter units, including Air Force, Police, Fire Brigade and others.

 

Zoey

Even the tiniest poodle or chihuahua is still a wolf at heart.’

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent 1940-present

Last, but not least, comes Zoey. She was a long-haired Chihuahua, weighing not much more than five pounds. Living in Colorado with her family in July, 2007, Zoey saw a three-foot long rattlesnake slithering towards the small boy of the family. The one-year-old was playing with the water in his grandparents’ birdbath when the snake rattled and struck.

Zoey managed to place herself between the snake and the child and was bitten above her eye. The site of the bite swelled quickly and it was feared that the little dog would succumb to the poison. However, after four days Zoey recovered and in March, 2008, was awarded the Shining World Hero Award. 

‘Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.’

Ferit Orham Pamuk 1952-present


To date, (2024) the recipients of the Dickin Medal have included:

38 dogs

32 pigeons

4 horses

1 cat

They have saved countless lives and comforted many more. 

They asked little but kindness, company and shelter.

We owe them more than we can ever repay. 

Monday 29 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge

 

                                Belgian Malinois with bite tug toy

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about here. They are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters.

Y

Y?

There are no DM recipients beginning with Y, so Y is being used interrogatively.

Why did Belgian Malinois feature so noticeably in the list of Dickin Medal recipients?

I had the impression that Belgian Malinois outnumbered German Shepherds in the list of DM awards, but I was wrong – nothing unusual there 😉

However, when I looked more closely at the list of dogs, the six Belgian Malinois were all honoured in the 21st century and of the eleven German Shepherds/Alsatians, seven were presented with their DMs in World War II and four in the 21st century.

                            Belgian Malinois training as an attack dog

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 1899, a German officer called Max von Stephanitz wanted to generate a reliable, calm working dog that could perform extremely well in several capacities. He cross-bred various herding dogs, seeking out those with good temperaments, intelligence, biddability and physical strength. Gradually, the German Shepherd evolved, and was later developed along two main lines, the Working dogs and Show dogs. The show dogs suffered under the strictures of the breed standard, which resulted in many dogs suffering from spinal problems, because it was considered more pleasing to the eye for the animals to have sloping backs.

From 1st August, 2016, the German Shepherd breed standard was altered to acknowledge that the dogs should be able to stand comfortably, without being supported. Hopefully, we have seen the last of dogs having to use wheels for their hind legs because of poor conformation.

                    German Shepherd using wheels for stability and mobility 
                                    Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There are now two distinct coat varieties, the stock or short coat and the long coat. Breeding between the two is not allowed, at least for the show ring!

After the First World War, when sensitivities were acute, the Kennel Club of Great Britain decided in their wisdom that having a dog with ‘German’ in its name was undesirable, so the name was changed to Alsatian Wolf Dog!

During the Second World War the RAVC commonly called German Shepherds Alsatians, but in 1977 the original name of German Shepherd was restored.

The Belgian Malinois originated in Mechelen (called Malines in France) in Antwerp in the Flemish region of Belgium at about the same time as the German Shepherd. Belgian farmers sought herding dogs that would be reliable, versatile and vigilant. The Malinois proved well-suited to the variability of the tasks. 

The dogs herded the livestock, anything from ducks and geese to sheep and goats, pulled carts and guarded the farm, with an instinctive understanding of the farm boundaries. They were also fiercely loyal to their owners, and always alert, even inside the farm house.

         Belgian Malinois United States Coast Guard bomb dog, Ricky, wearing doggles, ear defenders and hoist jacket
                                        Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Why have Belgian Malinois become so popular in defence work? 

German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are both loyal and vigorous, intelligent and agile.  

Belgian Malinois are lighter and faster than Alsatians, with tremendous stamina, and more independence. They are more challenging to train than German Shepherds. While a German Shepherd may adapt to (active, not sedentary) family life in retirement, a Belgian Malinois is more energetic and requires much exercise and mental stimulation.


Military dog, German Shepherd Ada, is lifted by her handler after she clamps his arm. She does not release until told to.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Belgian Malinois are favoured by police and military forces because of their agility and energy, drive and, when required, aggression, though German Shepherds still fulfil a useful rôle and will continue to do so.

German Shepherd, MOD Guard Service dog with handler at Army Air Corps station, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, England.

Sunday 28 April 2024

Roxy makes a friend

 

Roxy makes a friend

                                            Roxy meets Rosie

Roxy trotted off to see her friends the vets earlier this week for a check-up. She always likes visiting them because they’re so nice to her and she usually (actually always!) receives a treat or two . . . or three.

She was checked over thoroughly and pronounced fit and in good condition. Her teeth were particularly remarked upon and they certainly are nice and white and clean. The daily carrots and chews are doing their job, obviously.

Roxy is very friendly and likes meeting new dogs, so she was very pleased to see a dog behind the Reception desk. Rosie is a Labrador/Rottweiler cross and she was just as happy to make Roxy’s acquaintance.

                        Gilbert awaits Roxy's return. Note the piglet!

Gilbert was rather perturbed that Roxy went out with Barry and he had to stay at home with me, so he was very pleased to see them when they returned. He sniffed Roxy all over, to learn where she’d been and what she’d been up to.

Today, Friday, they both stayed at home with me while Barry went out to meet some friends for lunch. They were delighted when he came home, Gilbert presenting him with his latest toy – Gilbert’s toy, that is, not Barry’s.

                        Gilbert loves his little piglet. It makes a lovely noise!

Saturday 27 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge

 

 


                                    Pub sign depicting Swansea Jack
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about hereThey are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters.

X

eXtra

Again, there are no recipients in the X category, so I’m just adding a little extra about some faithful, heroic dogs, starting with Swansea Jack.

 

Swansea Jack  1930-1937

Swansea Jack was a black dog, somewhat resembling a flat-coated retriever. This remarkable dog was rehomed after showing far too much interest in the local duck population, reducing it quite considerably.

He went to live near the Swansea docks and at first was wary of the water, so his owner, William Thomas, encouraged him to start swimming with the local children. After a while, he started catching hold of the children and dragging them to shore.

One day, in 1931, a boy fell off the dock during an altercation. Jack jumped in and pulled him to safety. A month or so later, a swimmer found himself in difficulty, and, on hearing his cries for help, Jack jumped in to tow him to dry land. Many people witnessed this and were amazed by the dog’s actions. It is estimated that Jack saved 27 people in his relatively short lifetime. He is also credited with rescuing two dogs.

He died after eating rat poison when he was seven, and the culprit was never found, despite the offer of a large reward. His obituary said, ‘he had an innate genius for knowing just how and where to seize even the most hysterical human, struggling in deep water; and how best to tow the victim safely to shore.’

A public burial took place on 21st October, 1937, on the seafront, and a year later a memorial to him was unveiled. 

 


 Detail from the memorial

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The inscription reads,

‘Erected to the memory of Swansea Jack, the brave retriever who saved 27 human and two canine lives from drowning.

Loved and mourned by all dog lovers.

Died October 2nd at the age of seven years.

Ne’er had mankind more faithful friend than thou who oft thy life didst lend to save some human soul from death.

Owner and trainer Wm. Thomas’

Jack’s awards and newspaper articles about him can be seen at Swansea Museum.

Jack is the only dog ever to have received two National Canine Defence League bronze medals, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross, before the introduction of the Dickin Medal. In 2000, he was honoured as Dog of the Century by the charity ‘NewFoundFriends’ of Bristol, founded by David Pugh, which trains Newfoundland dogs in sea rescue techniques.

For more than thirty years, NewFound Friends has trained these huge powerful dogs to rescue people in difficulties in the sea. Participants in ‘dog rescue’ events can have the experience of being rescued by a Newfoundland dog, simultaneously raising money for their chosen charities.

Friday 26 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge

 

            General Jack Seely mounted on his charger, Warrior, with the                     Canadian Cavalry Brigade, painted by Alfred Munnings (1878-1959). This was painted within sight of the enemy, the horse standing on duckboards so that he would not sink in the mud!

 When the General had to attend to other duties, his batman stood in for him, wearing his uniform and happily accepting salutes from soldiers. Soldiers salute the commission, not the man.

                                Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about here. They are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters.

W

Warrior

Warrior was the war horse of General Jack Seely during the First World War. He had been bred by Jack Seely on the Isle of Wight in 1908. In 1914, he went to war. One hundred years later, in September 1914, he received an honorary posthumous award, as a representative of all the horses that served in the First World War. He was known as the horse the Germans couldn’t kill and certainly had many narrow escapes.  On at least two occasions he was standing next to a horse that was killed under its rider.

Jack Seely said of him, ‘His escapes were quite wonderful. Again and again he survived when death seemed certain and indeed, befell all his neighbours. It was not all hazard; sometimes it was due to his intelligence. I have seen him, even when a shell has burst within a few feet, stand still without a tremor – just turn his head and, unconcerned, look at the smoke of the burst.’

                                    Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

After the war, he returned to the place of his birth and lived with his owner until his death in 1941, when he was 33 years old. There is a statue of Warrior and General Jack Seely at Carisbrooke Castle, on the Isle of Wight.

 

White Vision

                                    Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

White Vision was a female pigeon bred by the Fleming Brothers, in Motherwell, Scotland. She was lent to 190 Squadron RAF, at Sullom Voe in the Shetlands, while serving with the National Pigeon Service.  

In October, 1943, she was aboard a flying boat which ditched in the North Sea close to the Hebrides. The ‘plane’s radio was malfunctioning and appalling weather conditions made it very difficult for other aircraft to search for the seaplane. White Vision flew 60 miles back to her loft in strong headwinds with information about the ‘plane’s location. Thanks to her successful 9-hour flight, searchers knew the area to search and the crew of the seaplane were rescued about 18 hours after they had ditched.

In December, 1943, White Vision became one of the first pigeons to be awarded the Dickin Medal, her citation stating, ‘For delivering a message under exceptionally difficult conditions and so contributing to the rescue of an aircrew while serving with the RAF in October 1943.’

William of Orange

                                        Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

William of Orange was bred in Knutsford, Cheshire, by Sir William Proctor Smith and trained by the Army Pigeon Service of the Royal Corps of Signals. He flew 250 miles from the Arnhem Airborne Operation in September 1944, where battle conditions were extremely difficult. The troops were surrounded by enemy forces and their radio sets were inoperative. Many pigeons were released and William of Orange was one of the few, and the fastest, to make it safely back to UK. He completed his flight in almost 4½ hours at an average speed of 62 mph.

His actions saved more than 2000 soldiers.

His citation in May, 1945, read, ‘For delivering a message from the Arnhem Airborne Operation in record time for any single pigeon, while serving with the APS in September 1944.’

Sir William Proctor Smith paid £185 for his pigeon’s military discharge, the current day equivalent of £10,006. According to his breeder/owner, in the ensuing years, William of Orange became ‘the grandfather of many outstanding racing pigeons.’

 

Winkie  ?-1953

Winkie with the crew she rescued.
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Winkie was a blue chequered hen hatched in Whitburn, West Lothian, Scotland. She was bred by A R Colley and owned by George Ross. 

She was aboard a four-crew bomber in February, 1942, when it was badly damaged by enemy fire on its way back from Norway and crashed into the freezing waters of the North Sea. There was no time to radio details of the location, so Winkie was released and flew 120 miles home to her loft, in abysmal weather. She arrived exhausted, her feathers coated in oil from the crashed bomber, which impeded her speed. The RAF quickly estimated where the stricken ‘plane had come down and a rescue was successfully completed.

The grateful crew later held a dinner in Winkie’s honour, toasting her for her very significant part in their rescue.

Winkie’s DM was presented in December, 1943, with the citation,‘For delivering a message under exceptionally difficult conditions and so contributing to the rescue of an aircrew while serving with the RAF in February 1942.’

Winkie died in 1953 and is on display with her DM in The McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum. A statue of her was unveiled in Dundee in 2023. 

Thursday 25 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons
 

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about here. They are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters.

V

Veterinary

An RAVC sergeant bandaging the ear of mine-detection dog, Jasper, in Normandy, July 1944
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There are no DM recipients whose names begin with V . . . yet!

The valiant animals who have been honoured have often been badly injured in the course of their duty and been treated by personnel in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. I have enormous respect for vets and the empathy and skill they demonstrate. Their patients cannot tell them ‘where it hurts’, though that is often all too obvious. Neither can they say how great is their pain ‘on a scale of 1 to 10’. They are entirely in the hands of their vets.

An RAVC officer checks an Afghan goat in a free veterinary clinic in Helmand. The veterinary outreach programme was designed to help villagers take their animals to a vet tor treatment.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Army Veterinary Service was established in 1796. Before that, farriers had been responsible for equine care, and cavalry officers were expected to understand the basics of equine diseases and illnesses and appropriate medications. 

Veterinary expertise was required immediately for horses working in the French Revolutionary Wars, which were fought from 1792 until 1802. Men with medical qualifications were recruited and offered three months’ veterinary training. 

In this way, John Shipp joined the 11th Light Dragoons in 1796, the first veterinary surgeon to be commissioned in the British Army. Five years later, there were 44 vets in the army. However, there was no veterinary corps and so vets were recruited into individual regiments under the command of their colonels.

This approach was inadequate and inefficient, resulting in poor care and the death of many horses in the Crimean War of 1854-1856There were protests from the public at the perceived mismanagement and the Army Veterinary Department was formed as a result in 1881. It consisted only of officers.

By 1898, veterinary treatment was managed by the Army Remount Service, which supplied replacement horses and mules. This move resulted in a swift acceleration of disease, during the Boer War of 1899-1902, about which many vets had warned.  Thus, in 1903, the Army Veterinary Corps was set up, manned by non-commissioned officers and other ranks and in 1906 it merged with the Army Veterinary Department.

                             The RAVC on the Western Front, 1914-1918
                                        Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

By the end of the First World War, in 1918, almost half the veterinary surgeons in Britain were serving with the AVC. As well as treating equines, the AVC also treated camels in the Middle East. Its success was such that about 80% of the animals treated were able to return to duty. After the war, it was granted the ‘Royal’ prefix.

                                    Military dogs in training

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Today, the RAVC principally provides and trains dogs and horses, but it also cares for the Regimental mascots, which include goat(s) as well as the more usual dogs and ponies. Official mascots are given a regimental number and rank, and can be demoted as well as promoted.


Babs, probably a regimental mascot, in the grounds of 22 General Hospital, Pretoria, during the Second Boer War, 1899-1902

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The RAVC trains approximately 170 dogs every year, which serve in the military or the police forces. It also breeds 60 horses a year.   

Wednesday 24 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge


This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about here. They are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters. 

U

Upstart

Olga, Regal and Upstart

Image source

Upstart was a chestnut gelding Police horse stabled near Hyde Park in London, until enemy gunfire directed at an adjacent anti-aircraft (‘ack-ack’) station damaged the stables there. He was then transferred to East London.

A few weeks later, he was patrolling Bethnal Green with his rider, D.I. J. Morley, when a bomb exploded 75 feet in front of him. Despite glass and shrapnel and other debris covering them both, Upstart did not bolt but remained calm and continued to help his rider in dealing with crowds and controlling traffic. 

Together with Olga and Regal, Upstart was awarded the Dickin Medal in April, 1947. These three Police horses were chosen principally to represent and honour the entirety of the mounted police force.

All three horses lie buried at the Metropolitan Police Mounted Training Establishment at Thames Ditton in Surrey. Their medals are displayed there in the museum. Upstart’s citation pointed out that ‘he was completely unperturbed and remained quietly on duty with his rider controlling traffic, etc. until the incident had been dealt with.’

Tuesday 23 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge

                                                       Theo 

                                                    Image source

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 A to Z Challenge will be about the recipients of the Dickin Medal, which you can read about here. They are in alphabetical, not chronological order, within the different letters. 

T

Theo  2009-2011

Theo was a black and white Springer Spaniel given to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and trained as an explosives detection dog. He was assigned to his handler, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, in 2010. Liam Tasker had originally enlisted in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) in 2001, but had transferred to the RAVC in 2007.

In Afghanistan, Theo and L/Cpl Tasker worked with several companies of the 2nd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, impressing everyone with their effectiveness as they advanced ahead of daily patrols, seeking out weapons and IEDs.  In five months, the partnership detected fourteen roadside bombs and caches of weapons, saving many lives through their actions. In addition, they uncovered stores of chemicals and individual components for bomb making. 

2 Para gave Theo their greatest recognition, his own ‘Para wings’, which Liam Tasker sewed onto his harness. The troops said, ‘He’s one of us.’

Theo with L/Cpl Liam Tasker

Image source

The partnership was so successful that their period of deployment was extended. On 1st March, 2011, Theo and Liam Tasker were on patrol when a Taliban sniper’s bullet killed the young man. Hours later, Theo died during a seizure. The autopsy did not reveal any obvious cause of death and the assumption was made that he had died of a broken heart after the shock of seeing his master killed.

Liam Tasker was mentioned in Despatches and his faithful dog was awarded the DM posthumously in October, 2012, ‘For outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty while deployed with 104 Military Working Dog (MWD) Squadron during conflict in Afghanistan September 2010 to March 2011’

Liam Tasker was 26 when he died and Theo was 22 months old. Their ashes were repatriated to the UK and the pair were buried together.

 

Thorn

Thorn, wearing his Dickin Medal in March, 1945

Image source

In March, 1945, Thorn received his Dickin Medal, ‘For locating air-raid casualties in spite of thick smoke in a burning building.’

Thorn was a German Shepherd, distantly related to another DM holder, Irma. He trained with the Ministry of Aircraft Production School (Is this MAP, which I could not identify earlier?)

His handler was Mr Russell and Thorn was such an excellent pupil that he was used to teach other dogs how to conduct a mountain rescue, detect mines and lead people to safety from burning buildings. He then worked with the PDSA Rescue Squads. He worked with Jet (DM) on one occasion, the pair detecting 25 people buried in South London. 

When he was called to a burning building, the aftermath of a bomb explosion in 1944, Thorn and Mr Russell willingly went in to the heat and smoke to search and found several people. For this action, Mr Russell received the BEM and Thorn the Dickin Medal in April, 1945.

After the war, Thorn had a brief film career, earning him £75 per film (£4,056:69).

 

Tich  1940(?)-1959

Tich with (?) Rifleman Thomas Walker

Image source

In 1941, during the Western Desert Campaign, soldiers of 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps found a small, black mongrel bitch and adopted her. They called her ‘The Desert Rat’ and named her Tich and she became their mascot. In 1943, her care passed to Rifleman Thomas Walker, a battlefield medic. She was always to be seen with him, riding on the bonnet of a jeep or a Bren gun carrier.

When the battalion was sent to Italy by sea, she was smuggled aboard the ship, where she gave birth to puppies. While in Italy, Rifleman Walker earned the Military Medal for valour when rescuing or treating injured soldiers while under fire. At all times, Tich remained by his side, despite being wounded several times.

The Commanding Officer of 1 KRRC, Lieutenant-Colonel E.A.W. Williams recommended Tich for the Dickin Medal, saying, ‘Her courage and devotion to duty were of very real and considerable value and her courageous example materially helped many men to keep their heads and sense of proportion in times of extreme danger. The sight of her put heart in the men as she habitually rode on the bonnet of her master’s jeep and refused to leave her post even when bringing in wounded under heavy fire.’

When the war ended, Tich accompanied her master to his home in Newcastle, where they took part in events to raise money for the PDSA. She died in 1959 and lies buried in the PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford. Her Dickin Medal citation reads, ‘For loyalty, courage and devotion to duty under hazardous conditions of war, 1941 to 1945, while serving with the 1st King’s Rifle Corps in North Africa and Italy.’


Tich's grave in Ilford

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons 

 

Tommy

Tommy, wearing his DM, 1946

Image source

Tommy was bred by William Brockbank of Dalton in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. He was taking part in a race from Christchurch, Dorset, when he was blown off course in a storm, landing in occupied Holland. He was rescued by a Dutchman, sympathetic to the Allies, who gave him to a Dutch resistance worker, Dick Drijver. Mr Drijver nursed the bird back to health and named him Tommy. He knew from his leg ring that the bird had come from England and he sent him back with a message attached with details of armaments being manufactured at a factory in Amsterdam.

Tommy’s wing was hit by gunfire but he managed to fly on, reaching his home loft on 19th August, 1942. Mr Brockbank gave the message to the police, and the Antwerp factory was subsequently destroyed. The Air Ministry told him that Tommy was to receive the Dickin Medal and in 1946, the Brockbank family and Mr Drijver attended the presentation. Tommy’s DM citation was worded, ‘For delivering a valuable message from Holland to Lancashire under difficult conditions, while serving with the NPS in July 1942.’

All the racing pigeons in the Netherlands had been destroyed by the Germans to prevent intelligence reaching UK. Mr Drijver was presented with a pair of pedigree pigeons, just two of the 2,000 birds given to the Dutch nation after the war, to help them regenerate their stock of racing pigeons.

For his part, Mr Brockbank prepared an exhibition about Tommy and the money raised purchased a field which was used to build a children’s playground.

 

Treo   c.2001-2015

Treo at work

Image source

Treo was a cross-bred black Labrador/English Springer Spaniel. His owners found him difficult to handle, with his inclination to growl and snap at people, so they gave him to the Army. He was trained at the Defence Animal Centre before being sent to Northern Ireland for three years. When his first handler retired from the Army, Treo was assigned to Sergeant Dave Heyhoe.

Sgt Heyhoe and Treo were posted to Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008. On 1st August of that year, Treo uncovered a daisy chain at the side of a road. A daisy chain is a series of explosive devices wired together. A month later, Treo detected another daisy chain. His clever nose saved the lives of many troops and civilians and his success was noted by the enemy. Intercepted messages referred to ‘the black dog.’

In 2009, Treo retired from active service and went home to live with Dave Heyhoe. His DM ceremony took place in February 2010. I can find no record of the citation.

Treo died in October 2015 and was buried with a Union Jack and his DM. A statue commemorating him was unveiled in Congleton in October 2017.


Treo with his DM

Image source 


Tyke

Image source

Tyke, who was also known as George, was the offspring of British and South African birds, and was hatched in Cairo. In June 1943, he was aboard an American bomber which was shot down. He was launched with a message conveying the position of the downed aircraft and flew more than 100 miles in poor visibility to deliver it.

Tyke was awarded the Dickin Medal in December, 1943, ‘For delivering a message under exceptionally difficult conditions and so contributing to the rescue of an Air Crew, while serving with the RAF in the Mediterranean in June, 1943.’ He was one of the first pigeons to receive the award.