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PDSA Dickin Medal

Instituted in 1943 by PDSA’s founder Maria Dickin, it acknowledges outstanding acts of bravery displayed by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units in any theatre of war, worldwide. To find out more visit http://www.pdsa.org.uk/about-us/animal-bravery-awards/pdsa-dickin-medal

WWI pigeon Cher Ami arrived message intact but was shot, blinded and leg hanging on a tendon. Picture: PA

Rip (died 1946), a mixed-breed terrier, was a Second World War search and rescue dog who was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery in 1945. He was found in Poplar, London, in 1940 by an Air Raid warden, and became the service's first search and rescue dog. He is credited with saving the lives of over 100 people. He was the first of twelve Dickin Medal winners to be buried in the PDSA's cemetery in Ilford, Essex.

BEAUTY Beauty, a wirehaired terrier, was a Second World War search and rescue dog considered to be the FIRST rescue dog. She was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery in 1945. For her service, Beauty was awarded the PDSA Pioneer Medal also, an award normally given to people, and a silver medal inscribed "For Services Rendered" by the Deputy Mayor of Hendon, and was given the Freedom of Holland Park. Beauty was awarded the Dickin Medal on 12 January 1945.

Sheila is the only non-military animal to have received the PDSA's Dickin Medal for bravery. She helped save the lives of four US airmen whose bomber crashed in a blizzard in 1944

In British naval history, Simon cat is named as a legend. He served on the Royal Navy sloop HSM Amethyst. He was badly wooded from a cannon shell during the Yangtze Incident, but still raised morale and killed a rat infestation. Simon received the PDSA's Dickin Medal for this brave action.

Mary of Exeter was a carrier pigeon who flew many military missions with the National Pigeon Service during World War II, transporting important messages across the English Channel back to her loft in Exeter, England. She was awarded the Dickin Medal in November 1945 for showing endurance on war service despite being injured on three occasions (she was attacked by a German war hawk, shot and hit by shrapnel) and emerging uninjured when her loft was bombed. She died in 1950.

Special Pigeon Service operative loading a plucky pigeon into a parachute cannister to be dropped over occupied Europe

Intel: A piece of vital wartime intelligence that was brought back to Britain by one of the Pigeons

Long haul hero: Dickin medal winner Mercury made an epic 480 mile trip from occupied Denmark in July 1942

Posters were put up across Britain warning the hungry populace not to shoot down the precious birds

A Special Pigeon Service operative loads a pigeon into a parachute cannister to be dropped over occupied Europe

Training: Aircrews being trained by a SPS operative in the correct deployment of the birds

Self-releasing pigeon carrier: The cunning timing device developed to aid the plucky pigeon drop into occupied Europe by delaying the chute release until the birds were clear of the aircraft

A bird can be seen peeping out of a crate as it is carried by a member of an RAF bomber crew setting off on a mission over France

On a wing and a prayer: Carrier pigeon MPS42 is pictured with his Dickin Medal after returning three times from occupied Europe

Gander the dog and unidentified male. The animal was awarded a Dickin Medal for its gallant exploits at the battle of Lye Mun, Hong Kong in 1941. The brave Newfoundland was killed by a grenade which it had chased, picked up and carried back towards the Japanese, saving the lives of dozens of Canadian soldiers.Picture: PA