The PDSA Dickin Medal for Gallantry, offered together with a RSPCA Red Collar for Valour, had been estimated at £20,000-30,000 by Mayfair saleroom Noonans on October 12. Including buyer’s premium the price bid online was £173,600.
Rob was honoured for gallantry and outstanding service during the Second World War, during which he undertook 20 parachute descents while serving with Infantry in North Africa and the 2nd SAS Regiment in Italy.
The medal was sold with an extensive archive including his collar, a portrait painting, photographs, certificate, manuscripts, books and letters.
Farm dog and pet
Rob was bought as a puppy from Colemere Farm near Ellesmere in Shropshire in 1939 for 5 shillings, and lived his early years with the Bayne family of nearby Tetchill as their farm dog and pet.
His owners volunteered him as a War Dog in 1942 and he was signed up on May 19 of that year. From September 1943 Rob served with the SAS - the first war dog to do so - taking part in operations in sabotage missions.
Christopher Mellor-Hill of Noonans said: “ ‘Rob the Parachuting Dog’ is the most famous of all the Dickin Medal recipients and we are delighted to be offering his medals on behalf of the family who owned him. Rob was the first War Dog attached to the SAS to be awarded the ‘animal VC’ and was reportedly the only War Dog to have been nominated for the Dickin Medal by the War Office.”
Demobilised on 27 November 1945, Rob led the Wembley Parade of 32 war dogs on July 16, 1947, in front of 10,000 spectators, being the only dog present to hold both the Dickin Medal and the RSPCA Red Collar and Medallion for Valour.
Mellor-Hill added: "We knew this was an amazing Dickin Medal and truly believed it would take the world record comfortably but we are really pleased to see Rob the Dog make such a spectacular ‘parachute’ landing in smashing the Dickin Medal world record by more than six times."
They also serve
Instituted by Maria Dickin, the founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), in 1943, the Dickin Medal has since been awarded on 71 occasions - 32 of them going to pigeons, 34 to dogs, four to horses and one to a cat.
The vast majority (and all those awards to pigeons) were granted in respect of acts of bravery in the Second World War, but more recently a number of awards have been made to arms and explosives search dogs of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps for their gallantry in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Baynes’ son, Basil (who now lives in Antrim, Northern Ireland) sold the medal, and recalls: “Following his wartime exploits, Rob was returned to us and settled back into life on the farm, occasionally making public appearances to help raise funds for returning prisoners of war and their families.
“In February 1948 he disappeared for five days with his companion, our other dog, Judy, a spaniel. Rob returning in an emaciated condition without his collar - his collar was what we called his everyday collar. It had red, white and blue ribbon all around it.
"Several years later a local farm worker out rabbiting with spade found the collar hooked around the root of a tree. Rob had strained and lost weight until he was able to slip the collar over his head. This dilapidated collar, now missing all ribbons, is among the items in the auction and the strain on the holes in the collar is obvious!”
Rob died in 1952, aged 12.
Proceeds from the medal and collar sale will be given to the Taylor McNally Foundation which supports charities giving opportunities to children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and difficult circumstances.
Noonans (then known as Dix Noonan Webb) sold another Dickin Medal given to a pigeon, called the Duke of Normandy, for £22,000 in 2020. The citation stated: “For being the first bird to arrive with a message from Paratroops of the 21st Army Group behind enemy lines on D-Day, 6th June 1944, while serving with the APS (Allied Pigeon Service).”
After an epic 26 hours and 50 minutes flight he was the first bird to arrive home with vital intelligence from behind enemy lines.