War Tails

Air Raid Warden Mr E. King with Rip the dog

Most people are well aware of the pet cemetery in Hyde Park, although most have, as far as I am aware, never set foot in the place. The pet cemetery started as a favour by Mr Winbridge, the lodge-keeper during 1881, for ‘Cherry’, a Maltese Terrier. Cherry belonged to some local children. More pet burials carried on through to 1903, eventually totalling over 300 animal graves.

There is another lesser known Animal Cemetery in Ilford, Essex; the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) which is certainly worth a visit, as it is the final resting place for twelve recipients of the PDSA Dickin Medal - the animals’ Victoria Cross - awarded for bravery during World War II. One such canine hero was Rip DM (Dickin Medal). Rip a mixed-breed terrier, was found as a stray following a heavy bombing raid at Poplar in 1940, by Air Raid Warden Mr E. King. Rip was thrown scraps by Mr King, who expected the dog to leave, but the two struck up a friendship. Mr King worked at post B132 in Poplar, where Rip was adopted as the mascot of the Southill Street Air Raid Patrol. He began acting as an unofficial rescue dog, being used to sniff out casualties trapped beneath buildings, and became the service's first search and rescue dog.

Rip had no formal training for this work but took to it instinctively. In twelve months between 1940 and 1941, he found over a hundred victims of the air raids in London. His success has been held partially responsible for prompting the authorities to train search and rescue dogs towards the end of World War II.

The Medal citation reads: "For locating many air-raid victims during the blitz of 1940". He would go on to wear the medal on his collar until the day he died.

His medal was sold at auction in Bloomsbury, on 23 April 2009. Medal specialists Spink of London predicted that the medal would sell for £10,000, but at the auction, it fetched £24,250, a record price for a Dickin Medal. When Rip died in 1946, he became the first of a number of Dickin Medal winners to be buried in the PDSA Cemetery in Ilford, Essex. His headstone reads "Rip, D.M., "We also serve" - for the dog whose body lies here played his part in the Battle of Britain.

Rest in Peace “Rip”.

London Time

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