So often called Man’s Best Friend, Dog’s are also a Soldier’s best friend and have been employed by militaries across the world and throughout history. The Egyptians, Greeks, Persians and Romans and many others have used dogs in many capacities since at least 600BC!
While their use as a combat unit in militaries has tapered off, military working dogs make excellent guards and hazardous material detectors. Their finely tuned senses make them perfect for work which humans are not capable of.
To recognise the service of all animals in His/Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, the PDSA Dickin Medal was created in 1943 and named after an Animal Welfare pioneer Maria Dickin.
The medal made from Bronze bears the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” within a laurel wreath carried on a ribbon of striped green, dark brown and pale blue. During the Second World War, 54 Dickin Medals were awarded to 32 Pigeons, 18 Dogs, 3 Horses and 1 Cat. It has become recognised as the Animal Victoria Cross in recent years and has now been awarded 65 times.
The first awards went to 3 Pigeons; White Vision, Winkie and Tyke who delivered messages which contributed to the rescue of ditched Aircrew in 1942 and ’43.
The most recent award as published in national news this morning was to a Labrador Sniffer dog called Sasha. The 4 year old pup was credited with 15 confirmed finds including Taliban weapon stashes in Garmsir.
Sadly Sasha and her handler Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe were killed in an ambush returning from a routine search operation with their patrol. Though Sasha and L/Cpl Rowe survived the initial attack, they were subsequently killed by gunfire.
Sasha will be awarded the Dickin Medal for her service in Afghanistan by the PDSA Charity.
Jan McLoughlin, the charity’s director general, said: “Sasha’s exceptional devotion to duty in Afghanistan saved many lives, both soldiers and civilians. This medal, recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross, honours both Sasha’s unwavering service and her ultimate sacrifice. Her story exemplifies the dedication of man’s best friend and reminds us all of the amazing contribution they make to our lives.”
A complete list of Dickin Medal recipients can be found on the Forces War Records website in the tutorials section:
Lance Corporal Rowe and Sasha received glowing tributes from 2 PARA’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joe O’Sullivan, and CO 104 Military Working Dog Support Unit, Major Chris Ham RAVC in 2008: