September 11, 2015 | Posted in War Dogs
Terriers love to dig and have a nose for adventure. Rip, the terrier of mixed ancestry put these terrier attributes to great use during the Second World War and is credited with saving the lives of more than a hundred people. He was a search and rescue dog who took to the job instinctively. In fact, he was probably the first of his kind. The British instituted a program to train dogs for search and rescue operations after they took note of Rip’s astounding abilities. In this sense, Rip was a torchbearer.
It is remarkable how so many of the canine heroes that you can read about on this site were actually strays. Rip was a stray too. He was picked up by Air Raid Warden M.E King in Poplar, London. This happened in the aftermath of a severe air raid on the city. A bond developed between King and the urchin mutt. Pretty soon, Rip was the mascot of the Southill Street Air Raid Patrol and was unofficially taking part in search and rescue operations.
Records from the time indicate that Rip excelled in finding survivors buried under the rubble of buildings that were felled by German bombs that rained down on London from the month of September of 1940 to May 1941. Of the more than 40,000 civilian casualties, almost half happened in London.
Each life that was saved in search and rescue operations was a major boost to the morale of the country’s fighting men. And Rip contributed with all his mongrel might in saving precious human lives.
For those buried under fallen structures, the sense of relief can be easily imagined, as they would hear the eager pawing and energetic yelping of Rip and finally as canine and human would combine to clear the debris, the first shafts of light from outside would raise and hold fast fading hopes.
Records from the day show that far from showing any nerves in absence of any training for search and rescue operations, Rip took to the action with gusto and moved from one scene to another with alacrity with scant regard for his own safety, the crashing structures, piercing air raid sirens, fire, and smoke.
For his efforts, brave little Rip was awarded the Dickin Medal, the canine equivalent of the Victoria Cross. This should put his efforts in perspective. The medal had been instituted only two years earlier. Rip proudly wore the medal around his neck till the end of his life.
Rip died in 1946, most likely from old age. He was buried in the PDSA cemetery in Essex. He shares the quiet confines with eleven more Dickin Medal winners that have been laid to rest there.
With a touch of the British penchant for understatement, his headstone captures his courageous contribution, it reads “Rip, D.M., “We also serve” – for the dog whose body lies here played his part in the Battle of Britain.”