Remembrance Day – Remembering Gander, A True Dog Hero
We are truly grateful to our soldiers for their service every day, but on Remembrance Day we take the time to remember all the lives that were sacrificed for our freedom.
Throughout our history, our canine companions played a vital role in our military. These courageous dogs carried first aid to the wounded, delivered messages between the lines, served as watchdogs and transported supplies. Tragically, many lost their lives along the way.
In 2012, the Animals in War Dedication was unveiled at the Confederation Park in Ottawa dedicated to animals that have served in the war. A memorable example of this heroism was a Canadian dog named Gander who served during World War II.
Gander was a big, loveable Newfoundland breed canine that became the regimental mascot for the 1st Battalion of the Royal Rifles of Canada. In 1941, the 1st Battalion was sent to Hong Kong to defend against invading Japanese soldiers. Gander was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and he joined the men on their mission. Rifleman Fred Kelly was responsible for taking care of Gander, which included giving him long cold showers to help him deal with the heat. According to Kelly, Gander was also a fan of the occasional beer!
Gander proved to be a brave and capable battalion member. He charged at any Japanese soldier who made the mistake of getting too close to the Canadians troops and tackled them. Most battles took place at night and Gander’s black fur made him hard to see. The Japanese later questioned Canadian prisoners about “the Black Beast,” fearing that the Allies were training ferocious animals for warfare.
On December 19th during the Battle of Lye Mun, a grenade was thrown near a group of injured Canadians. Gander picked up the grenade in his mouth and managed to get it a safe distance away. The grenade exploded and Gander was killed, but in doing so he had saved the lives of the seven soldiers.
Gander was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal for Gallantry by The People’s Dispensary For Sick Animals on Oct. 27, 2000. This ceremony was attended by 20 surviving members of Gander’s regiment. Fred Kelly himself accepted the medal on Gander’s behalf. The medal is on display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. When the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall was created, Gander’s name was listed alongside the 1977 Canadians who died during the battle.
Lest we forget.
Written by Dr. Gibbon
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