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Animals at war: The PDSA Dickin Medal


Animals have been a part of warfare for as long there’s been warfare, whether carrying soldiers or delivering messages, and on 2 December 1943, during one of the world’s most devastating conflicts, the PDSA Dickin Medal was awarded for the first time.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals was founded by animal welfare pioneer Maria Dickin in 1917, who set up the veterinary charity to provide care for the sick and injured animals of the poor. During the Second World War, Maria also set up the PDSA Dickin Medal to honour the work of animals during the conflict, a bronze medal bearing the words: ‘For Gallantry’ and ‘We Also Serve’.

100 years since the end of the First World War, the animals lost in military conflict are still often forgotten. In 2006 the charity Animal Aid created the purple poppy to commemorate the loss of animals in the First and Second World Wars, which has since changed to a purple paw to commemorate animals as victims of war rather than war heroes, and the charity Murphy’s Army launched their first Purple Poppy Campaign in 2016.

Below are images of just a few of the animals who have been awarded the Dickin Medal for their contribution in times of war.

1945: Mongrel Rip received the Dickin Medal for locating many victims of the air-raids during The Blitz.

22 January 1945: Collie Rob received the Dickin Medal for serving with the SAS and making over 20 parachute descents during the North African Campaign.

May 1945: William of Orange is one of several pigeons to have received the Dickin Medal, in fact three pigeons - White Vision, Winkie and Tyke - were the first recipients of the medal on 2 December 1943. William of Orange was awarded the medal for serving with the Army's National Pigeon Service and delivering a message from Operation Market Garden.

May 1946: Ship’s dog Judy, who served on HMS Gnat and HMS Grasshopper, was a pedigree Pointer who received the Dickin Medal for keeping prisoners’ morale high in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

29 March 1947: Alsatian Bing received the Dickin Medal for parachuting into Normandy with 13th Battalion, 6th Airborne Division.

11 April 1947: Olga, Regal and Upstart are three of only five recipients of the Dickin Medal, and received their medals for their work with the Metropolitan Police during the Second World War.

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