Heroic animals ‘who also served’ honoured this VE Day

To mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, leading vet charity PDSA is paying tribute to the brave hero animals ‘who also served’ and helped save countless lives during World War II by writing their stories.

The charity is commemorating the milestone by sharing exclusive e-books* which tell the remarkable stories of animal heroes honoured with the PDSA Dickin Medal**. These include the story of messenger pigeon, Duke of Normandy, who flew for 27 hours through bullets and bombs to deliver vital, life-saving intelligence to Allied Forces.

The prestigious Medal – known as the animals’ Victoria Cross – recognises outstanding acts of gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in theatres of war. 

The Medal was instituted by the charity’s Founder, Maria Dickin, with the approval of the War Office and Imperial War Museum, to raise the status of animals and acknowledge the remarkable roles they play in society. It was first awarded to a messenger pigeon named Winkie on 3 December 1943.

Mary Bawn, Head of Press, Voice and Brand at PDSA, said: “Throughout history, animals serving in the Armed Forces have made an extraordinary difference to the lives of so many, not only the men and women who serve, but also civilians who our military are protecting. Sharing some of these stories on VE day is a great way to celebrate the incredible, life-saving role animals have played throughout history, and continue to play today.”

Some of the featured hero stories include:

 Rip - The ‘World’s first Search and Rescue dog’

Rip, a crossbreed terrier, who is often referred to as the ‘World’s first Search and Rescue dog’. He was found on the streets of London by a local Air Raid Warden in 1940. 

He had a talent for sniffing out survivors trapped in the blitz rubble and despite never receiving formal training, in just twelve months he helped save the lives of more than 100 people.

Rip was awarded his PDSA Dickin Medal in 1945.

Duke of Normandy (Pigeon No. NURP 41. SBC 219)

Allied paratroopers from the 21st Army Group were dropped behind enemy lines days before D-Day. After their mission ran into numerous problems, the only way to get a message back was a pigeon named Duke of Normandy. 

His journey home – through bullets and bombs – took almost 27 hours. But he delivered critical intelligence to the Allied Command – and saved many lives. 

Duke of Normandy received his PDSA Dickin Medal on 8 January 1947.

Brian – a parachuting dog

A ‘qualified paratrooper’, Brian (also known as Bing) served with the 13th Battalion Airborne Regiment during WWII. As the D-Day landings began, Brian was parachuted into the Normandy and fought side-by-side with his human allies. He also took part in the final airborne assault of the war. 

Brian was presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal in March 1947.

To read the full stories of these amazing animal heroes and more, download the free PDSA Dickin Medal e-books at: www.pdsa.org.uk/VE

About PDSA 

PDSA is the UK’s leading veterinary charity, helping save and protect the lives of pets in need.  Funded entirely by public support, we are a lifeline for owners who have nowhere else to turn in times of financial hardship.

Due to coronavirus, PDSA is facing a national  crisis. The pandemic is having a massive impact on fundraising activities and the charity has seen a huge drop in income.  Despite this sick and injured pets still need emergency treatment, and PDSA will still be there to help. 

The charity needs support now more than ever. With your support we can stop suffering and save pets lives when they have nowhere else to turn.

To support and help them continue their vital work visit: pdsa.org.uk/appeal

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