BookPick: The Animal Victoria Cross
Nearly seventy animals to date have won the Dickin Medal, the highest award for animal bravery. Many of their inspiring stories are told in a delightful book, The Animal Victoria Cross.
The Animal Victoria Cross, as it came to be called, was the brain-child of animal lover Maria Dickin. Its official name is the Dickin Medal and it is awarded to animals who display outstanding loyalty, bravery and courage.
Dogs, horses, pigeons and one cat, Simon, have been honoured.
The story of Simon has special resonance to me as I am both a cat adorer and ex-Navy. Simon was the ship’s cat aboard HMS Amethyst which was bombarded by shore batteries as she sailed up the Yangtze river in 1949. Simon, although wounded, heroically protected the ship’s meagre supplies by catching rats and boosted the morale of the crew during the months the ship and crew remained trapped by the communists. Finally, they made a successful daring escape bid but sadly when they returned to England Simon died in quarantine. He was only four years old and is buried in the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) cemetery in Ilford. A Union Jack was draped over his little coffin as the gallant little animal was laid to rest.
The majority of Dickin Medal awards have been related to war service and the conflicts include the Second World War, Korea, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The Al-Qaeda attack on the Twin Towers as well as the Blitz saw great courage exhibited by animals such as Rip, the dog who saved many lives. In addition to British animals, there are American, Canadian, Australian and Egyptian winners of this unique award.
This book will be treasured by animal lovers everywhere. It’s ideal to dip into, perhaps with a familiar furry friend at your feet…