Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal awarded to heroic WWI war horse
The gallantry and devotion of millions of animals that served with the armed forces during World War I have been honoured with the presentation of a prestigious Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal* – the animals’ Victoria Cross – to heroic war horse, Warrior.
In this centenary year of the Great War, veterinary charity PDSA’s award - the first Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal ever presented in the charity’s 97 year history - ensures that all the animals that served on the front line during World War I are duly recognised for their gallantry and devotion to duty.
Dubbed ‘the horse the Germans could not kill’, Warrior posthumously received his honorary medal at a special ceremony, compèred by Kate Adie OBE, at the IWM London on Tuesday. It was accepted by author and broadcaster Brough Scott MBE, grandson of Warrior’s owner and rider, General Jack Seely.
Warrior arrived on the front line in 1914 and remained there with General Jack Seely throughout World War I. He was subjected to machine gun attacks by air and survived falling shells at the Battle of the Somme. He was buried under debris and got stuck in the mud at Passchendaele, and was twice trapped under the burning beams of his stables. He was an inspiration to the soldiers as they faced their greatest fears in the battle against bayonets, bullets, gas and tanks. Warrior was a true survivor and his story epitomises the vital roles played by millions of animals.
Celebrities including Steven Spielberg – director of the Oscar-nominated film War Horse – have shown their support for this honorary award. Spielberg 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.”
The PDSA Dickin Medal was instituted by the charity’s founder Maria Dickin, CBE, in 1943. She was inspired to do so by the gallantry displayed by animals on active service in World War II. To date, 65 medals have been awarded.
The medal is recognised worldwide as the highest award any animal can achieve while serving in military conflict. Warrior was the first to receive an honorary award and the first ever World War I recipient of a PDSA Dickin Medal.
At the historic event, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Warrior’s gallantry and devotion to duty throughout World War I 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 I.”
Commenting on the award, Brough Scott MBE (grandson of Warrior’s rider, General Jack Seely), said: “It is with great pride and gratitude that I accept this Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal on behalf of Warrior and all the remarkable animals in World War I. 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.”
Gina Koutsika, Head of National & International Programmes & 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.”
The PDSA Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces. Warrior’s medal also features a bronze ‘Honorary’ bar on the striped ribbon.
Since its introduction it has been awarded to 29 dogs, 32 World War II messenger pigeons, three horses (not including Warrior) and one cat.
Warrior arrived on the Western Front on 11 August 1914 with General Jack Seely (who later became Lord Mottistone) and remained on the front line throughout the war.
They saw action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Warrior was dug out of the mud of Passchendaele and twice trapped under the burning beams of his stables. Many times he charged towards the enemy, only to witness the men and his fellow cavalry horses cut down by gunfire and shells.
According to records, Warrior displayed gallantry above and beyond the call of duty. He was an inspiration to the soldiers as they faced their greatest fears in the battle against bayonets, bullets, gas and tanks.
Despite sustaining 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.