London Blitz dog heroes

Commemorative article about the London Blitz dog heroes
By Laure-Anne Viselé, January 2011

Dogs in the London Blitz

I am mad about history (and geography, and biology, and foreign affairs, and theology, and grammar, and etymology, and … ), so it was only a matter of time before I wrote a dog post with a history slant. Let’s look at the London Blitz (World War II) from the a dog’s perspective.

Seven dogs distinguished themselves for their valour during the London Blitz. They are collectively known as “the Magnificent Seven” and have even had their bravery officially commemorated by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, UK (PDSA) in 2007. This is what they did to deserve this highest of accolades.

Search-and-rescue heroes

I do not easily anthropomorphising (interpret dog behaviour through human values), but you have GOT to be impressed by their character:

  • Beauty (Fox Terrier) helped rescue hundreds under the London rubble. She even saved a buried cat, in doing so pioneering a special squad to help rescue trapped animals. She rescued 63 animals in total!
  • Rip (some kind of Corgi mix?) rescued more than 100 people in one year. He won the Dickin medal (dog equivalent of the Victoria cross). He was a stray after his house was bombed, and who got adopted by a search-and-rescue warden. He started rescue work with no training, yet somehow knew to stop digging and look at the handler after he’d found a victim.
  • Peter (Collie cross?) distinguished himself for his search-and-rescue work. He even met King George VI for saving a young boy during one of the last London air raids.
  • Jet (black German Shepherd) shone through “war dog” school. After graduation, he started working in anti-sabotage, but soon became one of the most successful search-and-rescue dogs in World War II. He got called every single night until the air raids on London finished (between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941)!
  • Rex (German Shepherd) received the Dickin medal for his “uncommon valour” during search-and-rescue work. Rex was particularly intelligent and “dogged” in his work. His job was to find trapped victims in burning buildings. He bravely faced smoke and flames without flinching.
  • Irma (German Shepherd) saved hundreds of lives in her search-and-rescue work. She is particularly famous for saving two little girls when she refused to give up a scent track.
  • Thorn (German Shepherd) was another successful search-and-rescue dog. He once saved an entire family trapped under a burning house.

The 7 hero dogs in pictures

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My personal favourite is Rip of course. What with my love of feel-good dog rescue stories and mongrels.

The Dickin medal: a Victoria cross for dogs

A total of 62 animals have received the PDSA‘s Dickin Medal between 1943 and 2007. They are:

  • 32x messenger pigeons (WWII);
  • 26x dogs, among which some who have served in Afghanistan; Rip’s Dickin medal got sold in 2007 for £24,250!
  • 3x  horses; and
  • 1x cat: Simon. Simon was HMS Amethyst’s mascot. He survived a canon injury during the Yangtze incident (1949) and in doing so, tremendously raised morale. He proceeded to rid the ship of a rat infestation.

Couch potato or dog hero?

Think your pooch has what it takes? Mine (Roger) is definitely more couch potato than war hero…


Any comments?

I always love to read your comments, no matter how short (or long!). So don’t be shy, and share your thoughts.

I would particularly like to hear from you if:

  • You or your dog are involved in search-and-rescue training
  • You have a hero dog story to share
  • You are involved in the process of awarding Dickin medals
  • You are a dog handler for the police, fire brigade, or military

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