Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Dickin Medal

November has arrived, and that means grey skies, falling leaves, and Remembrance Day.
On November 11th, Canadians take the day to remember those who fought, and especially those who died, in wars throughout history. The emphasis, of course, is on the two World Wars. The week of November 11th is Veterans' Week.
I've always found Remembrance Day to be deeply meaningful, and I really love the ads from Veterans' Affairs this year - 'make remembrance more than something you feel, make it something you do'.
Anyway, I could go on and on about this topic, but this is an animal blog and there's a reason I'm posting about it. Animals were inevitably involved in every war, and they too suffered, died, and were even involved in the fight.
Veterans' Affairs Canada has posted a list of 50 ways to remember, and # 25-26 are back on topic:
  1. Research memorials located around the world that commemorate animals in war. Show the memorials on a map and describe their significance.
  2. Make a list of animals that helped in war and peace support efforts - either overseas or in Canada. Explain what each animal did and why it was important.
The Dickin Medal is also known as 'the animal's Victoria Cross'. It was awarded 54 times during World War II, and it may surprise some people to find out just what animals were the recipients. 18 dogs, 3 horses, and 1 cat (the famous Simon) were awarded the Dickin Medal, but the majority went to - can you guess? - pigeons.

Yes, 32 'flying rats' were awarded the animal's Victoria Cross, for performing some truly amazing messenger feats. Something to think about when you're cursing them for making a mess of the city.

Over the next week, I think I'll post some of the stories of Dickin Medal recipients, because they are definitely stories worth being told.

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