Sergeant Gander of the Royal Rifles of Canada


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    Sergeant Gander of the Royal Rifles of Canada

    Post by Battalion Colours on Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:46 pm

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    Gander with members of the 1st Royal Rifles in Hong Kong image courtesy - Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association

    Gander: A Newfoundland Hero
    Based on an article that appeared in Newf Tide written by Mary Jane Spackman with contributions from Sue Miller

    Gander became the Newfoundland mascot of Quebec City’s Royal Rifles of Canada by chance. He began his life as a puppy named Pal with his family in Gander, Newfoundland. As he grew he spent more and more time at the airport with the soldiers who were assigned there. His family felt he was growing too big and the Royal Rifles willingly adopted him as their mascot. His official name became Regimental Mascot Sgt. Gander. Gander’s new life with the Rifles would cover many miles and ultimately end at the battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island.

    During his time as their mascot, Gander proved his value more than once. There are at least three documented instances of Gander protecting the troops. The first was when a wave of attackers landed on the beach and Gander rushed at them barking and charging at their legs. The second instance occurred at night. There was a group of injured Canadians laying on the road and as a group of Japanese soldiers advanced towards them, Gander flew at them, causing them to change direction.

    The last heroic act by Gander would cost him his life. A grenade was thrown towards a group of soldiers commanded by Captain Gavey. The soldiers were unable to move away from the grenade due to intense shooting from the Japanese. Gander ran forward, took the grenade in his mouth and continued away from his men. Gander was killed by the subsequent explosion but the men he served were saved by their loyal Newfoundland mascot. This last act of heroism has been memorialized for eternity by awarding Gander the Dickin Medal for "acts of conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in wartime." The prestigious Dickin Medal was awarded by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) which is an animal veterinary charity in the United Kingdom.

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    The inscription on Gander's Citation for Bravery reads as follows:

    For saving the lives of Canadian Infantrymen during the Battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island in December 1941. On three 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’s” intervention many more lives would have been lost in the assault.

    ***Note: Sergeant Gander is the only Canadian I know of who was awarded Dickin Medal.


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    Re: Sergeant Gander of the Royal Rifles of Canada

    Post by Darrell on Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:34 am


    Thanks for posting that. I had no idea at all about this story.

    Additional Dickin Medal info:

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    and a nice CBC Radio Archive bit that includes talking with Gander's Handler:

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    Wonderful stuff.


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    Re: Sergeant Gander of the Royal Rifles of Canada

    Post by pylon1357 on Thu Oct 14, 2010 1:10 pm

    Many thanks for bringing this back to the forefront of my memory. I first read about Gander in an article in the late 70s early 80s. Up until now, he had become but a distant memory.


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    Re: Sergeant Gander of the Royal Rifles of Canada

    Post by Battalion Colours on Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:08 pm

    Others follow in the footsteps of Sergeant Gander:

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    Bomb-sniffing dog fetches medal

    A perky British Labrador, whose bomb-sniffing exploits helped save lives in Afghanistan, has been decorated for canine courage in a ceremony at London's Imperial War Museum.

    Eight-year-old Treo joins a menagerie of heroic animals honoured over the years with a special award known as the Dickin medal, including 32 pigeons, three horses and a cat.

    Sgt Dave Heyhoe, the black Lab's handler, said he was "very proud indeed," adding the award was not just for him and his dog but "for every dog and handler that's working out in Afghanistan or Iraq."

    Treo merely flicked out his rosy tongue as he and Heyhoe posed for photographs with the silvery medal. He squirmed as the medal was fitted around his neck.

    The military nominated Treo for the prize in recognition of his help uncovering a series of Taliban bombs during his time serving in Helmand Province, an insurgency hot spot, in 2008.

    The Labrador is the medal's 63rd recipient since its inception in 1943, according to the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals, the charity that awards the prize.

    Man's best friend has won a big share of the medals, including a collie named Rob who joined British commandos in repeated parachute operations behind enemy lines during World War II.

    More recently, Sadie, another bomb-sniffing dog, was awarded the Dickin medal for helping to alert coalition forces to an explosive hidden under sandbags in Kabul in 2005.

    Other animals, notably carrier pigeons used in World War II, have bagged honours as well.

    Countries from Australia to Hungary occasionally honour exceptionally brave animals with medals in a variety of contexts.

    There's no equivalent to the Dickin medal in the United States, although military animals have been honoured with medals or memorials on an unofficial, ad hoc basis.

    The most famous US recipient, a World War I mutt named Sgt Stubby, served in 17 battles, was wounded in a grenade attack and survived several gassings. Between locating wounded Allied soldiers in the trenches, he even managed to help nab a German spy.

    Stubby, now stuffed and on display at the Smithsonian, was awarded several medals, including a Purple Heart, and the canine was made a lifetime member of the American Legion.

    But the practice of giving medals to animals was eventually abandoned by the U.S. military on the ground that the practice risks devaluing the awards given to soldiers.

    Lisa Nickless, a spokeswoman for the animal charity, said no one had raised any such concerns about Treo.

    "He saved human life," she said.

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