Rock DJ Robbie Williams
2 September 2014, 16:28
An heroic First World War horse is to be awarded the "animals' VC'' today in recognition of the gallantry of millions of animals that served during the conflict.
The Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal is being presented posthumously to famous Isle of Wight war horse Warrior, dubbed "the horse the Germans could not kill'' at a special ceremony today.
The award, presented in the centenary year of the First World War, is the first honorary PDSA Dickin Medal ever presented in the veterinary charity's 97-year history as a recognition of the gallantry showed by all the animals that served on the front line during the conflict.
The medal will be accepted by author and broadcaster Brough Scott MBE, grandson of Warrior's owner and rider General Jack Seely, at a special ceremony compered by Kate Adie OBE at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) London this evening,
After arriving on the Western Front on August 11 1914 with Gnrl Seely, Warrior stayed there throughout the war, surviving machine gun attacks and falling shells at the Battle of the Somme.
He was dug out of the mud of Passchendaele and twice trapped under the burning beams of his stables, surviving many charges at the enemy and proving an inspiration to the soldiers he was fighting alongside.
Despite suffering several injuries, Warrior survived and returned home to the Isle of Wight in 1918, where he lived with the Seely family until his death aged 33.
Mr Scott said he accepted the medal with ``great pride and gratitude'' on behalf of Warrior and all the ``remarkable'' animals in the Great War.
He said: ``Warrior's story - which I grew up hearing at my mothers' knee - was lost in time to the wider world. But now he rides again 100 years later, thanks to PDSA.
``My family and I are more than honoured that Warrior has been given this award on behalf of all animals that also served; we are truly humbled. I only wish Jack Seely were here today to witness Warrior receiving the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.''
The PDSA Dickin Medal, instituted by the charity's founder Maria Dickin in 1943, is recognised as the highest award an animal can achieve while serving in military conflict.
Warrior's award as the first ever First World War recipient of a medal, and the first honorary award, has been recognised by celebrity supporters including Steven Spielberg, director of the Oscar-nominated film War Horse.
He said: ``Warrior is an extraordinary example of the resilience, strength, and profound contribution that horses made to the Great War. Recognising him with an Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal is a fitting and poignant tribute not only to this remarkable animal, but to all animals that served.''
PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin added: ``Warrior's gallantry and devotion to duty throughout World War One reflects the bravery shown by the millions of horses, dogs, pigeons and other animals engaged in the war.
``That is why he is a worthy recipient of this very special Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal - the first and only of its kind.
``And in this anniversary year of remembrance there can surely be no more fitting way to honour the bravery and sacrifice that millions of noble animals displayed during World War One.''
Gina Koutsika, head of national and international programmes and projects at IWM, said: ``Over 16 million animals served in the First World War.
``They were used for transport, communication and companionship. Our love for animals is something that will never change and many members of the First World War Centenary Partnership are reflecting this in their programming.
``By honouring Warrior in the centenary year, PDSA have brought to the forefront the story of all animals.''
Since its introduction, 65 Dickin Medals have been awarded - to 29 dogs, 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses (not including Warrior) and one cat.
The last recipient was Military Working Dog Sasha, who died while on patrol in Afghanistan, who was given the award posthumously in May this year.