Tuesday 2 April 2024

A to Z 2024


A to Z Challenge 2024


Image source

This year my blog posts for the April 2024 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.


Bass   2012-present

Bass is the 75th and most recent recipient of the Dickin Medal. It was presented to him in January 2023 to acknowledge his brave work in Afghanistan in May 2019. While under fire, in a night-time operation in which two personnel were killed, Bass uncovered five explosive devices.  Undoubtedly, his actions saved many more lives.

Bass is a Belgian Malinois, (Belgian Shepherd, Chien de Berger Belge) a breed known for its intelligence and loyalty. He was born on 25th May, 2012, and joined MARSOC with his handler, Alex Schnell, in 2014, with whom he now lives in retirement, in Texas.

 During his years of service with the US Marine Special Operation Command (MARSOC) in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, Bass was involved in more than 350 searches for bombs and 45 other missions.

Beach Comber

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Beach Comber was a Canadian war pigeon.  He landed with Canadian troops on the Dieppe beaches in France in August 1942. Beachcomber’s mission was to convey the first news of the successful landing to commanders in Britain. He flew through hazardous conditions and the receipt of his message was a signal to commence the ultimately unsuccessful Dieppe Raid.

In 1944, Beach Comber was awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry. The citation read, ‘For bringing the first news to this country of the landing at Dieppe, under hazardous conditions in September 1942, while serving with the Canadian Army.’

Beach Comber was the only Canadian bird to be honoured with the Dickin Medal and one of only three Canadian animals to receive it.

Canada honoured the animals who served during WWII with a stone wall built at the entrance to the Memorial Chamber in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. On the wall there are carved animals and the words, ‘The Humble Beasts that Served and Died.’

Beauty   1939-1950

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Beauty was a wire-haired terrier who belonged to Bill Barnet, a PDSA Superintendent. He led rescue parties searching for animals during the Blitz. Beauty went with him to keep him company. One day, in 1940, Beauty began digging in the rubble and soon a cat was found and rescued. That cat was the first of 63 animals Beauty found during the war. She is regarded as the first Search and Rescue dog.

She was given a silver medal with the inscription, ‘For Services Rendered’ by the Deputy Mayor of Hendon, and the Freedom of Holland Park. In 1945, she was awarded the Dickin Medal, with the citation, ‘For being the pioneer dog in locating buried air-raid victims while serving with a PDSA Rescue Squad.’

Beauty lies buried in the PDSA cemetery in Ilford, with several other Dickin Medal recipients.


Around 250,000 pigeons were used by the Armed Forces during the Second World War. They served with the Army, the Royal Air Force, the police, fire service, Home Guard. They were even used at Bletchley Park, the code-breaking centre in England, then known as Station X, in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

The majority of pigeons in service perished, through accident, interception or exhaustion. Fewer than 12% returned safely to their home lofts. The usual practice was to launch at least two birds with the same message. So many birds were shot, and others could be deflected from their course by shelling and noise.

All RAF bombers and reconnaissance aircraft carried pigeons in waterproof bird cages. If they ditched, there was a chance of a message being sent and rescue attempts being made.

Billy was just such a pigeon. He delivered a message from the crew of a bomber that had been forced to land in 1942. He received his DM for bravery in 1945.

Bing  1942-1955

                                Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Bing was an Alsatian Collie cross belonging to the Fetch family in Leicestershire. (Fabulous surname for a dog owner!) When they found they could no longer afford to feed Brian, (as he was then known) because of the rigours of food rationing, they gave him to the army. His name was changed to Bing (perhaps he could sing!) and he was sent to the Army War Dog Training School in Hertfordshire. He was trained to protect military personnel while they slept, to locate the enemy and to detect booby traps and mines.

His first mission saw him flying with the 13th Parachute Battalion over Normandy on D-Day. June 6th, 1944. He was reluctant to jump from the aircraft and had to be encouraged out with a piece of meat. He had to be rescued from the tree in which he landed, and later on was wounded, his injuries being treated at the Veterinary Kennels at Stockport.  

In March 1945, Bing was parachuted over the Rhine and participated in the advance into Germany. When the war ended, Bing returned to his original home and name with the Fetch family. After his death, his skin and fur formed a mounted display for the Duxford branch of the Imperial War Museum. The rest of his remains were buried at the PDSA cemetery in Ilford, Essex, now part of Greater London. 

Bing received his medal in March 1947.

A book about his life, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Bing the Parachuting Dog’ was published in 2012.  



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Little information is available for Bob. He was a mongrel who served with the 6th Battalion Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment in North Africa. He carried messages and worked on patrol and was the first dog to receive the Dickin Medal in March 1944 for ‘constant devotion to duty’.

Broad Arrow

Broad Arrow served with the Special Section of the National Pigeon Service (N.P.S.) and was one of the first pigeons to be awarded the DM. He carried three important messages from Europe to Britain, in May 1943, June 1943 and August 1943.

Buster  2002-2015

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Buster was an English Springer Spaniel who was trained as a detection dog for the RAF Police. He had such an important role that he had his own protective gear against chemical or biological attack. If an alarm sounded, he was trained to enter a sealed pen, and air would be pumped through a gas mask filter.

He worked in protection at Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

Buster served with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in Iraq in 2003 at a time when British troops were subject to random rocket attacks. A property thought to be the command centre of a radical group had been searched three times, with no result. Buster was set to work and found a wardrobe pushed against a sheet of metal concealing a hoard of weapons. The cache held grenades and bomb making equipment.

 Buster was the only arms and explosives search dog working in Iraq at that time and was credited with saving the lives of many soldiers. He was presented with his DM at Crufts in March 2003. The citation stated, ‘Arms and explosives search dog, Buster, located an arsenal of weapons and explosives hidden behind a false wall in a property linked with an extremist group.’ The citation continued to say that he was ‘considered responsible for saving the lives of service personnel and civilians’ and that ‘Following the find, all attacks ceased and shortly afterwards troops replaced their steel helmets with berets.’   

Buster later worked with the RAF at Rosyth in Scotland. When he retired from active service, he remained the RAF Police mascot. He was given a red and black ceremonial coat on which were pinned his military medals and helped to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

His handler, Flight Sergeant Barrow, wrote a book, ‘Buster: The Dog Who Saved A Thousand Lives.’ 

During his military career, Buster worked with his handler, Will Barrow, in the Mercian Regiment, the Royal Marines and the Coldstream Guards. He was the last UK Military Working Dog to leave Iraq and at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire there is a memorial to him.

 He lived with Will Barrow in Lincolnshire until his death in 2015.


  1. My hats off to all of them for doing such a great job!

    I can't stand when some businesses put out poison for pigeons, that really upsets my wife and me!

    1. I agree with you and your wife. It's not necessary.

  2. Loving reading about the heroic dogs. Beauty is obviously the favourite so far!

  3. That's a pretty awful statistic for the pigeons. Buster stands out for me.

  4. They asked so little and gave so much.

  5. My heart goes out to Bing who "was reluctant to jump from the aircraft." Can you imagine?

  6. Locating buried air raid victims while working with a rescue squad is pretty impressive.

    1. It is, and it's better than any machine can do . . . so far.

  7. Thank you for stopping by my blog. I love your theme, you have done a lot of research on these wonderful animals.

  8. These animals are incredible, although I do feel sorry for them. Particularly poor Bing! xxx

    1. Unlike humans, they had no apprehension about what they were doing, except, perhaps, for Bing, just before he jumped.x x x

  9. Well done on your research.
    I think all of these animals/birds are amazing.

    All the best Jan

    1. The more I read, the more impressed and humbled I become.

  10. Belgian Malinois are so smart! I've always been impressed with well-trained ones.

    1. I was surprised to discover how many Malinois have been used.

  11. I loved all of these stories! Thank you for sharing them! Great B day!

  12. Loved the story of Chips. If I had been a member of that family I don't think I would have donated my dog to the defense program. Sigh. Dogs are family. I am glad Chips eventually was able to return home, but sad he died at such a young age from injuries.


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