Remember animals who served in wars urges author

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The Independent Online

Best-selling author Jilly Cooper is urging people to remember the animals that have served in conflicts past and present this Remembrance Day.

Sixty-two animals have received veterinary charity PDSA's Dickin Medal - the animals' Victoria Cross - for bravery in war.

These have included dogs that descended into battle by parachute, horses that braved fire and bombs, pigeons that delivered life-saving messages and a cat that saved a warship's rations from the rats.

Jilly, whose book, Animals in War, pays tribute to bravery of animals in war zones, said: "I am passionately anxious that all creatures great and small should be recognised for their courage in war.

"The wonderful stories of the animals that were awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for life-saving heroism in World War Two and, more recently, the dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan, should never be forgotten. These animals are truly brave and their stories hugely inspiring."

Maria Dickin, founder of PDSA set up the PDSA Dickin Medal in 1943 after she became aware of the bravery of animals serving alongside the Allied Forces during the Second World War. The medal recognises life-saving acts of heroism in the same way as the Victoria Cross.

Animals that have been awarded the medal include Brian the dog who served with the 13th Battalion Airborne Division. Brian, a patrol dog who landed in Normandy with the parachute division, became a fully-qualified paratrooper.

Commando, a messenger pigeon assigned to French Resistance agents working in occupied France, successfully delivered messages that saved many lives and Metropolitan Police horses Olga, Regal and Upstart who remained on duty in the London despite the heavy bombing, have also been honoured.

The most recent award of the PDSA Dickin Medal was in February 2007 to British Army explosives search dog, Sadie, for her life-saving discovery of a booby-trap bomb. She located a pressure cooker packed with explosives hidden within the United Nations compound in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her actions saved the lives of civilians and military personnel.

PDSA will again participate in the Remembrance Day March past the Cenotaph at Whitehall on Sunday to commemorate the millions of animals that have seen active service alongside Allied troops in conflicts past and present.

PDSA's director general, Jan McLoughlin, said: "Animals continue to play a significant role in theatres of war across the world and the PDSA Dickin Medal remains the highest honour for animal gallantry in conflict. This is also true of recent wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan."