Morale-boosting Canine Given PDSA Award
A heroic dog who comforted captured Scottish soldiers during the Second World War has been recognised by PDSA.
The leading veterinary charity awarded a posthumous PDSA Commendation to Bull Terrier Peggy at a special ceremony held at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, in Aberdeen.
Peggy became 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders’ mascot after soldiers discovered her as an abandoned puppy in Malaya. She was a loyal companion to the soldiers as they fiercely fought the Japanese during the Battle of Singapore in February 1942. When the British garrison capitulated, the Gordon Highlanders – and Peggy – were captured, becoming POWs.
After capture, Peggy and the Gordons were sent to Thailand where, along with thousands of other POWs, they carried out hard physical labour. Despite the horrific treatment and conditions, the morale of the Gordon’s during the three-and-a-half years in captivity was maintained in part due to Peggy.
The dog was so important that when the guards refused to feed her, the prisoners sacrificed part of their small ration to ensure their loyal mascot did not go hungry. The dog also hunted for rats, supplementing the soldiers meagre portions of rice.
The surviving members of the battalion were freed, along with Peggy, following the surrender of Japan on 15 August, 1945. Such was the bond between Peggy and the Gordons that the soldiers refused to travel home unless she was allowed to join them.
Peggy made Aberdeen her home, where she lived at the battalion’s barracks until her death in 1947. The dog was nominated for the award by Stewart Mitchell, a volunteer historian at the Gordon Highlanders Museum. He said: “Peggy was a loyal and courageous ally to [her] comrades. When she saw a Gordon Highlander being attacked, she would fearlessly try to intervene, often at the cost of a blow with a split bamboo cane – or worse, a stab from a guard’s bayonet.”
Peggy was a loyal and courageous ally to her comrades. When she saw a Gordon Highlander being attacked, she would fearlessly try to intervene
“Throughout the duration of their imprisonment, with the men in a seemingly hopeless situation [and] struggling to survive another day with no end in sight, Peggy’s presence boosted their morale.
The regiment continued to recognise the role that Peggy assumed, and after her death demonstrated its continued gratitude to her. Her grave at the Bridge of Don Barracks, Aberdeen, was marked by a granite memorial. This was later relocated to a prominent position in the grounds of the new regimental headquarters. This now houses the regimental museum and the marker remains an enduring symbol the loyalty and affection between the soldiers and Peggy.
Peggy was presented with her PDSA Commendation by PDSA vet Fiona Gregge. Fellow Bull Terrier, Billy, attended the presentation to receive the award on Peggy’s behalf. Gregge said: “Peggy’s remarkable story has touched all of us here at PDSA.
“The PDSA Commendation recognises the outstanding devotion that animals display and celebrates the amazing ways they enrich our lives. It is clear that the soldiers drew a great amount of strength from Peggy’s unwavering loyalty and friendship during what was a deeply traumatic time in their lives.
“The fact the Gordon Highlanders refused to board their ship home unless Peggy could sail with them speaks volumes about the bond that was formed. Peggy was a truly exceptional animal and she is a worthy recipient of this award.”
The commendation is part of PDSA’s Animal Awards Programme. This also includes the PDSA Dickin Medal (the animal equivalent of the VC), the PDSA Gold Medal (the animal’s George Cross) and the PDSA Order of Merit. The programme was instituted in 1943 by the charity’s founder, Maria Dickin. She believed that, if animals were recognised for their heroics, it would help ensure they were better treated.
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