Dickin Medals – the ‘animals’ VC’ - were established in 1943 by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) to recognise acts of bravery by birds and animals during wartime. They were named after Maria Dickin, PDSA founder.
On November 17, a dog called Mali became the 69th recipient of the honour. Mali was seriously injured when helping British and Afghan Special Forces to clear a building in the capital Kabul in 2012 following a Taliban attack.
Another 31 dogs have received a Dickin Medal, along with four horses, a cat and 32 Second World War messenger pigeons.
Carrier pigeons were often used as military messengers in both world wars because of their homing ability, speed and altitude.
Princess, a smokey blue carrier pigeon hen, was one of them. The medal was given posthumously for carrying an important message from Crete to Alexandria while serving with the RAF in 1943.
The flight of 'Princess 42 W.D.593' is listed by the PDSA as one of the finest performances of pigeons in war service: a staggering 500 miles mostly over water. Princess died before she could be awarded the medal so it was presented to a fellow RAF pigeon at a ceremony in May 1946.
The medal is accompanied by its certificate and explanatory letter and two press photographs of the award ceremony, with the lot overall estimated at £7000-10,000. This lot comes directly from the family of the trainer.
Medals awarded to famous animals tend to make higher prices. In April 2009 London auction house Spink sold the Dickin Medal awarded to Rip, a stray dog who had been found starving in Poplar, east London, after a heavy air raid in 1940, for £21,000. Adopted by the local ARP Warden, he acted as an unofficial rescue dog, sniffing out casualties trapped under buildings, and during the course of the war he located more than 100 air raid victims.
The Dickin Medal won by Commando, a Second World War carrier pigeon, made £8000 against an estimate of £5000-7000 at Spink in November 2004.