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Bravery Medal to be Awarded to Army Dog

29 April 2014

UK - A military working dog named Sasha, killed on patrol in Afghanistan, is to be honoured with the posthumous presentation of the PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross, in May, writes Gemma Hyland.

Sasha, a four-year-old yellow Labrador, was initially deployed in Afghanistan with handler, Sergeant Andy Dodds of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps attached to the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

Their primary role was to search in advance of patrols, providing safe passage for soldiers, uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb-making equipment.

Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe with Sasha in Afghanistan. ©Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008
Lance Corporal Kenneth Rowe with Sasha in Afghanistan.
©Telegraph Media Group Limited 2008

On 24 July 2008 Sasha and Lance Corporal Rowe were returning from a routine search operation when their patrol was ambushed.

They survived the first attack but a second tragically claimed both their lives.

During her time in Afghanistan Sasha made 15 confirmed operational finds. Her actions saved many soldiers and innocent civilians from death and serious injury.

Commenting on the forthcoming award, PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin said: “We are extremely proud to be awarding a posthumous PDSA Dickin Medal to Military Working Dog Sasha, which is the highest award any animal can receive for lifesaving bravery in military conflict.

"The award is even more poignant as we approach the centenary of World War One and are reminded of the huge debt we owe the animals who serve in times of conflict.

“Sasha’s exceptional devotion to duty in Afghanistan saved many lives, both soldiers and civilians. This medal, recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross, honours both Sasha’s unwavering service and her ultimate sacrifice. Her story exemplifies the dedication of man’s best friend and reminds us all of the amazing contribution they make to our lives.”

The medal was instituted by PDSA’s founder, Maria Dickin CBE, in 1943. It is the highest award any animal in the world can attain while serving in military conflict. Sasha’s is the 65th PDSA Dickin Medal to be awarded, and the first since 2012.

PDSA Dickin Medal dogsSasha’s posthumous presentation will bring the total number of PDSA Dickin Medals awarded to animals in war to 65. Since the introduction of the Medal by PDSA founder Maria Dickin CBE in 1943 it has been awarded to 29 dogs (including Sasha), 32 World War Two messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.

Colonel Neil Smith QHVS, Director Army Veterinary and Remount Services, said: “The Royal Army Veterinary Corps is delighted that PDSA is honouring Sasha by awarding her the PDSA Dickin Medal. This prestigious award recognises how her devotion and skills undoubtedly saved the lives of many troops in Afghanistan, and acknowledges the excellent work our Military Working Dogs and their handlers do.

"Sadly this award is posthumous as both Sasha and her handler Lance Corporal Ken Rowe were killed in enemy action in Afghanistan in 2008. Our thoughts remain with LCpl Rowe’s family and this award will give us the opportunity to once more celebrate his and Sasha’s immeasurable contributions to military operations.”

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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