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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Mali the dog wins Dickin prize for animal gallantry

8-year-old Belgian Malinois was serving with the Special Boat Service in Afghanistan in 2012

Who's a brave boy? You's a brave boy! Mali poses for a photograph after receiving the Dickin Medal. Reuters/Peter Nicholls
Who's a brave boy? You's a brave boy! Mali poses for a photograph after receiving the Dickin Medal. Reuters/Peter Nicholls

The Dickin Medal, an honour given to animals that have served with the military, police and rescue services, and which recognises gallantry in the line of duty, has been awarded to an 8-year-old dog which saved the lives of troops in Afghanistan.

Mali, a Belgian Malinois, became the 69th recipient of the medal, which is described as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, Britain’s top award for military valour. The medal is awarded by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) for “conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty”.

Mali was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. He was sent to assist in an operation by the Special Boat Service to secure an enemy stronghold, situated in a multi-storey building.

“Sent through direct fire on two separate occasions to conduct searches for explosives, he also indicated the presence of insurgents numerous times, giving the assault force vital milliseconds to engage the enemy in close quarter combat,” his citation reads.

Mali was seriously injured by three grenade blasts; two explosions injured his chest, front and rear legs. Another blast caused the loss of Mali’s front tooth and damage to his right ear.

He received his honour – a bronze medallion bearing the words ‘For Gallantry’ and ‘We Also Serve’ within a laurel wreath on a ribbon of striped green, dark brown, and pale blue – on Friday at The People’s Palace in London.

The honour was instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin, the founder of the PDSA, which celebrates its centenary this year, and was first awarded on December 2 in that year to three carrier pigeons, White Vision, Winkie and Tyke, for aiding the rescue of downed aircrew in separate incidents.

The following year, Gustav, another pigeon, received the medal for bringing back to the United Kingdom the first communication from the Normandy beaches on D-Day. A dog, Bob, had been honoured earlier that year, giving an indication of the stranglehold that canines would soon take on the award – since it was revived in 2000, the only non-dogs to win were two horses from 17 honours.

In all, it has been won by 32 pigeons, 32 dogs, 4 horses and 1 cat – Simon, who served as the ship’s cat on the HMS Amethyst and was recognised for ‘gallantry under fire’ during the Yangtze Incident in 1949 – and for his essential role in catching rats despite suffering shrapnel injuries.