Beachcomber & The Dieppe Raid
19 August 1942

“Beachcomber is being presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal by Dorothea St. Hill Bourne, Secretary of the PDSA Allied Forces Mascot Club.”
Source: Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

Our BVP2017 group has officially returned home as of late last night. In the hustle and bustle of the program, we had to skip a few regular social media posts that have been favourites of our followers, especially #MascotMondays. Consequently, in honour of our #BVP2017 group returning home and the 75th Anniversary of the Dieppe Raid last Saturday, we are sharing the brief story of an animal that returned home as well, and received a medal for it.

In the early hours of 19 August 1942, from the beaches of Dieppe, Canadian forces released the carrier pigeon Beachcomber“, who was entrusted with the delivery of an important message to England. Taking flight with blazing speed through hazardous conditions, including one of the largest aerial dogfights of the war, Beachcomber safely reached England, informing higher command that the Canadians had landed at Dieppe. In March 1944, the English People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals awarded Beachcomber the Dickin Medal, (awarded to animals who displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in military service).  

Beachcomber remains the only Canadian pigeon, and one of only three Canadian service animals, to be awarded the Dickin Medal.   

The PDSA Dickin Medal
© IWM (EPH 3546)

The official citation reads: 

Pigeon – NPS.41.NS.4230 
Date of Award: 6 March 1944 

 “For bringing the first news to this country of the landing at Dieppe, under hazardous conditions in September, 1942, while serving with the Canadian Army.”  

For more information on the Dickin Medal and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, visit https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/animal-honours/the-dickin-medal   

Clydesdale Horse

Founded in 1910 in London, Our Dumb Friends’ League worked to ensure the welfare of animals used in the war. The League continues its mandate today in Denver, Colorado.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-302.

While the memories and images of wastage often prevail when considering the use of animals in the First World War, it should be noted that many of the men were deeply impacted by their suffering. In his memoirs, Sniper Frank S. Iriam relates the following account of a Clydesdale horse with affection:

“We had an old roman-nosed Clydesdale in the transport that was a veteran and had been with the battalion through many battles. He had been wounded, shell-shocked and gassed. Now when he was taken to a bad place that was under fire, he knew what to expect. He would shiver, tremble all over, and break out in a sweat and whinny softly for sympathy. That old Clyde had real courage for he never baulked or refused to go… It seemed to get your goat worse than seeing men cut up. The men have an idea what it is all about but the horses have to take it as it comes and say nothing.”
(Glenn R. Iriam, In The Trenches – 1914-1918, p. 189)

Horses were employed in a myriad of positions, conventional or not. Pictured here is an Army Motor Car at Lark Hill, Salisbury, pulled by horses. [1915.]
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-004964.