In a special ceremony held at Wellington Barracks, London, a PDSA Dickin Medal – recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross – has been posthumously awarded to Theo, a Military Working Dog, by PDSA Chairman, Michael Bolton.
The Dickin Medal was first instituted by the UK’s leading veterinary charity, PDSA, in 1943. It is the highest award any animal can receive in recognition of conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict. Theo’s is the first Dickin Medal to be presented since 2010.
The posthumous award was accepted by Sergeant Matthew Jones and Search Dog Grace.
Theo, a Springer Spaniel, pictured above, died from a seizure in Afghanistan in March 2011, just hours after his handler, Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, also pictured above, was killed by enemy fire while on a mission in support of the Irish Guards.
Theo was deployed with Lance Corporal Tasker as part of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, 1st Military Working Dog Regiment during the conflict in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Their role was to provide search and clearance support, uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb-making equipment. During his time in Afghanistan Theo made 14 confirmed operational finds, the most any Arms and Explosives Search dog in Afghanistan has found to date.
Today’s ceremony was attended by colleagues and relatives of Lance Corporal Tasker. Also attending was broadcaster and entertainer Paul O’Grady.
Colonel Neil Smith QHVS, Director of the Army Veterinary and Remount Service, said: “The Royal Army Veterinary Corps is honoured that PDSA awarded its Dickin Medal to Theo. Sadly Theo died just a few hours after his handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker sadly succumbed to his injuries. This impressive team undoubtedly prevented many soldiers and civilians being killed or injured.
“This award recognises not only a very special dog, but also the contribution that all our dog teams make in detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and weapons caches.”
Commenting on the award, PDSA Chairman, Michael Bolton, said: “We are proud to honour Theo with the PDSA Dickin Medal, the highest award any animal can receive for life-saving bravery in conflict. Without doubt, Theo’s actions in Afghanistan saved many human lives.”
Jane Duffy, Liam’s mother, said: “Liam loved his dog and I believe that he would have been immensely proud to know that Theo’s life-saving loyalty and devotion to duty have been recognised.”
Broadcaster and writer, Paul O Grady MBE, who attended the presentation, said: “The story of this outstanding dog, who, together with his brave master and friend Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, served so magnificently in Afghanistan, is profoundly moving.
“For almost 70 years PDSA has commemorated the gallant and life-saving deeds of dogs, horses and other noble creatures ‘who also serve’. By honouring Theo today, and by remembering his unique working partnership, we can help raise the status of animals in our world.”
Theo’s posthumous award brings the total number of Dickin Medal presented to animals for their wartime heroism to 64. Since its introduction by PDSA founder, Maria Dickin CBE, in 1943, Dickin Medal has now been awarded to 28 dogs (including Theo), 32 WWII messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.