Tuesday 23 April 2024

April 2024 A to Z Challenge


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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. 


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

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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, wearing his Dickin Medal in March, 1945

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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

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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, wearing his DM, 1946

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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

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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

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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.


  1. Tich's story was a heartbreaking one. It always makes me happy to read about the animals who made it back home to live our their years as beloved pets.

    1. Some managed to live quite long lives after their service. Many didn't.

  2. So sad that Theo died of a broken heart, but I'm happy to read many others went home with their masters after the war amd led happy lives.

    1. So much death and destruction in war, yet wars continue.

  3. Theo and his master were so young. How sad.
    What I have found interesting about this series is how for the first few posts in this series I found I would tear up a little, but I now seem hardened to what I read. My part loss of empathy and sympathy in such a short time is a bit disturbing to me.

    1. Maybe it's because there's so much repetition of injuries and death. That's the nature of the theme.

  4. All very touching stories, none more so than Lance Corporal Tasker and Theo. Both so young.

    1. It seems such a waste of young lives, but they saved so many others.

  5. One can only imagine the close bond existing between these very smart, highly trained animals and their handlers.

  6. These are all very touching stories.
    Thank you for researching and sharing them with us.

    All the best Jan

    1. I didn't realise how much time it would take! Fortunately, my time's my own!

  7. Theo's story is particularly sad ... xxx

  8. It is, but what grand work he did.


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