Marcarpents Rimshot stands in for 'Gander',
who posthumously receives the Dickin medal
for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
CANADIAN HONG KONG VETERANS MEET TO HONOUR
THEIR HEROIC MASCOT 'GANDER' IN HISTORIC CEREMONY
Gander, a large, black Newfoundland dog, will be foremost in the memory of a group of Canadian Battle of Hong Kong veterans and other dignitaries on Friday, 27 October 2000 when they attend a noon hour ceremony at 'Earnscliffe', the official residence of the British High Commissioner, on Sussex Drive in Ottawa. His Excellency Sir Andrew Burns who, after a distinguished term in Hong Kong, has recently arrived to take up the post of High Commissioner to Canada, will be the host for this gathering.
During the Second World War battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island In December 1941 Gander attacked invading Japanese troops on the beach and shortly thereafter forced a unit of the invaders to change their direction of advance thereby saving several wounded soldiers from immediate death or capture. Later Gander saved the lives of several wounded soldiers of the Royal Rifles of Canada regiment by heroically picking up a live hand grenade that had landed among them. Gander ran off with the grenade in his jaws, saving the lives of several soldiers but was killed instantly in the subsequent explosion.
For this incident alone Gander will receive the PDSA Dickin Medal for bravery. The medal, commonly described as "the animal Victoria Cross", bears the words "We Also Serve". The medal is awarded for acts of extreme bravery in wartime by the PDSA (The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals) The British animal welfare charity has previously awarded fifty-four Dickin medals to animal heroes during and after the Second World War. Gander's award is retroactive to 1941 and will be the fifty-fifth and first awarded since 1949. It is also the first such award to a Canadian animal and Gander will henceforth be the only known Canadian animal military hero so honoured. General Sir Roland Guy, past Chairman of the PDSA, wilI arrive from Britain on Wednesday to present the Dickin Medal posthumously to Gander at the Friday ceremony. He will be accompanied by a Public Relations Manager for the PDSA, Ms. Isabel George. The ceremony at Earnscliffe will be attended by many dignitaries representing various Canadian veteran, military, historic, and charitable organizations. General Sir Roland Guy is a former senior officer of the King's Royal Rifle Corps with whom the Royal Rifles of Canada have been affiliated. He will officially hand the medal to veteran Frederick Kelly, former Rifleman of the Royal Rifles of Canada. Rifleman Kelly was one of Gander's handlers in Canada and during the battle in Hong Kong in December 1941.
After the presentation, Mr.Phillip Doddridge, Vice-President of the Hong Kong Veteran's Association of Canada (HKVA) will present the medal to Mr. Joe Geurts, Director of the Canadian War Museum. The medal will later be on display as part of the permanent Hong Kong exhibition in the Museum. The Hong Kong Veterans, headed by their President Mr. Harry Atkinson, are from all regions of Canada. Accompanying them will be a contingent from the Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association. This Association was formed by family and friends of the members of 'C' Force, the Canadian brigade at Hong Kong. The Association is dedicated to the interests of the veterans and their families and the preservation of the memory of the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong.
Symbolically, the animal representative for Gander will be Rimshot, a Newfoundland dog owned by Mrs. Nina McNamara Côté of Bainsville, Ontario. To further enhance the historic perspective, a re-enactor in the uniform and equipment of a Canadian soldier of 'C Force' will be provided by the Canadian War Museum.
Along with the veteran members of the Royal Rifles will be members of the Winnipeg Grenadiers as well as some former members of the brigade headquarters with whom they served in 'C' Force. The story of these men deserves a more prominent place in the history of Canada. Inadequately trained, improperly armed and numerically overwhelmed they fought with what they had the most of - courage. Sacrificed through political and military ignorance they were forced to endure unbelievable hardships in captivity. Torture, forced labour of the most cruel kind, inadequate food and a shortage of medical supplies for more than three and a half years left many of those who did survive captivity to suffer physical and emotional problems throughout their lives. Canadian history has perhaps not always been kind or reflective of the true portent of the events that befell the Hong Kong regiments. Their struggle for recognition has been a long one. It is perhaps fitting that their fight and sacrifice should at last be brought to significant prominence by their very own mascot, Gander. Hopefully the story of Gander and his brave and selfless act in order to save his friends will help to keep alive the memory of those brave Canadian soldiers who, long ago and far away, "...... gave their yesterday for our tomorrow....."
The Dickin medal awarded to Gander the dog will be on display at the Canadian War Museum, in its Hong Kong section of the Second World War gallery, starting on October 28, 2000
PRESENTATION OF THE DICKIN MEDAL
1. Thanks to High Commissioner for the introduction. Firstly may I say how extremely honoured I am to have been invited by the Hong Kong Veterans Association of Canada to award the Dickin medal posthumously to the Newfoundland dog called Gander, mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada. I shall be presenting the award to Mr Fred Kelly, Gander's handler, whose presence here today has, I think, made this ceremony particularly moving, and we are all delighted Mr Kelly that you have recovered from your recent spell in hospital.
2. I am making the award on behalf of the United Kingdom animal charity, the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals, which was founded in 1917 by Maria Dickin to provide free veterinary care to sick and injured animals belonging to poor people. The PDSA has now become the largest charitable provider of veterinary care in the world, with 45 hospitals doing nearly one and a half million treatments each year to sick animals in the United Kingdom.
3. When I told people in England that I was going to Canada to present a medal to a dog which died nearly 60 years ago, their initial reaction was to smile - until I told them why and what I was presenting the medal for; then they gasped in admiration and sadness. Why was there this great contrast in emotion? I think because many people still do not realise what noble and courageous deeds animals are capable of doing in support of us human beings, and also what an uplifting effect their presence and companionship had on the maintenance of morale of our military personnel in a war situation.
4. This was why Maria Dickin instituted the Dickin medal in 1943. She wanted to raise the status of animals in society by rewarding them for acts of conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when under the control of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence in World War 2 and its aftermath. The medal has now become popularly recognised as the Animal's Victoria Cross.
5. Although many animals have been decorated for valour in other countries they have normally been awarded the same medal that servicemen and women receive, like the Purple Heart in the USA or the Croix de Guerre in prance. As far as I am aware no other country has had a specific decoration for animal heroes such as the Dickin medal.
6. Including Gander, 55 Dickin medals have been awarded to 32 pigeons, 3 horses, I cat and 19 dogs. Reading some of the citations I have been really moved and very proud of what some of them did. For example, pigeons which, by the carriage of urgent messages, often through hazardous conditions, not only provided much needed information about a battle, but often saved lives as well, such as by rescuing an aircrew whose plane had ditched at sea, or of preventing 100 allied soldiers from being bombed by their own planes. Then consider the horses which, calmly and with amazing self control, continued their rescue work during the aerial bombardment of London when faced with bombs exploding all around them, and particularly incendiary bombs, as fire normally drives a horse wild with terror. Then we had a cat, on board HMS Amethyst during the Yangtse incident which, though wounded, continued to keep the rat population at bay so preserving the food supplies during the 101 day siege. And finally the dogs, showing quite remarkable deeds of courage, fidelity and endurance, whether rescuing humans and animals from under rubble, or parachuting with secret agents behind enemy lines, or saving lives by guarding our troops from or warning them about an enemy presence.
7. And so we come to Gander. We all know the story. A pet, he was called Pal, living on Gander airport, given by his owner as a mascot to the Royal Rifles of Canada who changed his name to Gander. He accompanied the Regiment to help defend Hong Kong, then displayed quite remarkable gallantry during the Japanese invasion of the island saving many Canadian lives, but sadly losing his own life in the process. When the PDSA Council of Management heard of his courage they approved the award of the Dickin medal without hesitation.
8. Before I read out the citation and make the award I would just like to say that had it not been for the determined and dedicated research by Mr Jeremy Swanson of the Canadian War Museum and Professor Howard Stutt ofMcGill University over a period of 5 years, this evidence of Gander's gallantry would never have come to light. They deserve our thanks and congratulations.
9. The citation reads: "For saving the lives of Canadian infantrymen during the Battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island in December 1941. On 3 documented occasions Gander, the Newfoundland mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada, engaged the enemy as his regiment joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers, members of Battalion Headquarters 'C' Force and other Commonwealth troops in their courageous defence of the Island. Twice Gander's attacks halted the enemy's advance and protected groups of wounded soldiers. In a final act of bravery the war dog was killed in action gathering a grenade. Without Gander'as intervention many more lives would have been lost in the assault."
10. Finally let me say that, in my personal judgement, having read the citations of all 55 Dickin medals, I regard Gander's award as one of the most deserving of them all.
11. Award of the Medal.