We’re very happy to have a Dickin Medal on display in the Museum for the next 6 months. This is one of only 3 on display in the country and one of only 71 Dickin Medals in existence. This particular medal was awarded to a pigeon called Dutch Coast, he was on board a Lancaster Bomber which went down in the North Sea in 1942. He flew 288 miles over 7 hours in terrible weather. He delivered his message and the lives of all the crew were saved as a result of is actions.
In 1943, Maria Dickin, the Founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (a charity known as the PDSA) created the Dickin Medal to honour the work done by animals in World War Two and to recognise their conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty. Since its introduction in 1943, the Dickin Medal has been awarded just 71 times: 31 dogs, 32 World War Two messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat have been awarded. We are very honoured to have the Dickin Medal here on loan to The Devils Porridge Museum from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association.
Animals have been used in war for thousands of years. Over 16 million animals served in the First World War. Cats and dogs were trained to hunt the giant rats that infested the trenches. By 1918, 8 million horses would lie dead in the mud, many next to soldiers they served with. The use of cavalry in war declined after World War One but animals remain an important part of the Armed Forces.
The War Memorial which we have outside the Museum was gifted to us by the Animals in War Group, Carlisle in 2015, as a lasting permanent reminder of the enormous sacrifice made by animals in war.
The Devils Porridge has a fantastic new item on loan – a Dickin Medal. The Dickin Medal was created by Maria Dickin, founder of the PDSA in 1943 to recognise the brave contributions made by Animals in War. It has been awarded just 71 times – 31 dogs, 32 World War Two messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat have been awarded. The medal is on loan from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association (the RPRA) and is one of only three medals they have loaned from their collection across the UK. The medal commemorates ‘Dutch Coast’ a pigeon who delivered an SOS from a ditched air crew in 1942. The pigeon covered 288 miles in 7.5 hours. The entire crew were rescued as a result of this action.
“The Museum has a memorial outside to commemorate Animals In War” said Judith Hewitt, Museum Manager, “and last year members of our Young Historians Club worked with the RPRA and the Carlisle Animals In War group to curate an exhibition about all the animals who also served. We are delighted to be able to bring this rare object to our region and to share it with our visitors. It will go on display within the next few weeks and will offer something different for everyone (especially animal lovers) to see.”
This object was recently donated to the Museum. It is an Auxiliary Territorial Service (or ATS) coat from World War Two. It was owned by a young woman called Elizabeth who was originally from Lancashire but was stationed in Stirling during the War. Her daughter, from Lockerbie, donated this coat to the Museum.
One of the most interesting parts of this donation was inside the overcoat. On the outside, it is a standard issue military style coat but inside are numerous felt badges from different countries and regiments involved in World War Two. The donor didn’t know what these badges were, and she was curious to know how her mother acquired them.
Some of our young volunteers managed to find out what all the badges were, but we don’t know why Elizabeth had them (they were probably tokens or mementoes from people she met during the War).
Here are some of the most interesting badges which she has collected:
Igloo with a star: Exercise Eskimo Badge
Rainbow and flaming sword: Post WW2 U.S. Forces European command
Red gate: British troops in Northern Ireland
3 yellow stripes: Overseas service
Tigers face: British army, South East Command UK
Stanfield, Annan Road,
Dumfries and Galloway
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