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Gander:  Canadian War Hero

Gander and the Royal Rifles

Gander, formerly named Pal, was acquired as mascot, by  the Royal Rifles of Canada, who were stationed in Gander, Newfoundland during WW2. ('Pal' had accidentally scratched a child and his owners, upset by the incident, offered him to the Royal  Rifles.)

 In 1941, during the Second World War, The Royal Rifles of Canada were sent, along with Gander, to Hong Kong Island to defend the island against Japanese attacks.

On one occasion, Gander charged Japanese soldiers as they were approaching some wounded Canadian soldiers; most likely saving the soldiers' lives.

Gander's final  act of bravery cost him his own life, but saved the lives of the men he was with.  It occurred on Dec 19, 1941, during the Battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island.  During a Japanese attack, Gander picked up a grenade that had landed next to a group of soldiers and carried it away.  The grenade exploded, instantly killing Gander.

Gander and the Royal Rifles of Canada
Image of Dickin Medal

The Dickin Award, instituted in 1943 by Maria Dicken founder of People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, is an award for any animal 'displaying conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty whilst serving with British Commonwealth armed forces or civil emergency services.'  It is recognized as the animal's Victoria Cross.

Gander was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal on October 27, 2000.


The citation on the medal 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.

Gander's medal is on permanent display in the Hong Kong section of the Canadian War Museum.



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