Rob receiving his Dickin Medal in 1945
|Died||18 January 1952
|Employer||Special Air Service|
|Notable role||Military Dog|
|Owner||Basil and Heather Bayne|
RSPCA silver medal
Rob (1939 – 18 January 1952) was a Collie dog who in 1945 was awarded the Dickin Medal, considered to be the animals' Victoria Cross. He was alleged to have made over 20 parachute descents during the North African Campaign, serving with the SAS. However in 2006, his actions were revealed as being a possible hoax perpetrated by members of his regiment in order to prevent Rob leaving after his original owners requested his return.
Early life and military service
Rob was a working dog on a farm in Shropshire until 1942, when his owners, Basil and Heather Bayne, enlisted him as a war dog. Assigned to the Special Air Service at the base in Wivenhoe Park, Essex, Rob's official designation was war dog No 471/322. He was used as a messenger and a guard dog. When the troops based there departed for Arnhem in the Netherlands, he was not allowed on the ship and so was forced to stay behind.
Rob received his medal in London on 3 February 1945. The citation read "For service including 20 parachute jumps while serving with Infantry in North Africa and SAS Regiment in Italy." Rob won other medals for bravery, including an RSPCA silver medal.
According to Quentin Hughes' autobiographical account of his time in the 2nd SAS, Who Cares Who Wins?, the actions which led to Rob's Dickin Medal were in fact a hoax. He reported that instead of completing parachute drops as reported, the dog acted as a companion to the regiment quartermaster, Tom Burt.
Hughes wrote that when hearing that the family which donated Rob to the Army Veterinary and Remount Services had requested the dog back, he and Burt worked together to keep Rob by exaggerating his exploits. At one point they attempted to carry out a parachute jump with Rob but weather conditions were unfavourable and they couldn't follow through with the jump as Hughes wrote, "We had a suitable parachute harness and I phoned through to the RAF and made arrangements for Rob to have a short flight, unfortunately, quite a strong wind blew up during the flight and the RAF decided it would be dangerous to drop Rob on that day." They had hoped to send a letter to his owners following the successful drop, and after the failure decided to send it anyway. Rob's owners passed the letter about the dog's actions to the PDSA, resulting in Rob's Dickin Medal in January 1945. Although Hughes died in 2004, the possibility of a hoax wasn't revealed until 2006 when a painting of Rob was featured in an exhibition entitled "The Animals War" at the Imperial War Museum in London. According to Hughes' friend Mickey King, who remembered the author discussing the incident, "Quentin said that nobody survived 20 parachute drops, let alone a dog. You were lucky to survive three."
Following his military service, he returned to his owners in Tetchill, Shropshire. He died in 1952 and was buried on the family farm, marked with a stone memorial which reads: "To the dear memory of Rob, war dog no 471/322, twice VC, Britain's first parachute dog, who served three and a half years in North Africa and Italy with the Second Special Air Service Regiment. Died 18th January 1952 aged 12 1/2 years. Erected by Basil and Heather Bayne in memory of a faithful friend and playmate 1939–1952."
- O'Neill, Amanda (2006). Dogbiz. Interpet Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-84286-136-3.
- Malvern, Jack (20 July 2006). "War heroics were a shaggy dog story". The Times. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- Toms, Jan (2006). Animal Graves and Memorials. Shire Publications Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7478-0643-1.
- Alleyne, Richard (21 July 2006). "SAS reports of canine heroics 'just a shaggy dog story'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
- "Books for children". Blue Hills Press. Retrieved 5 March 2011.