Co Antrim man to sell medal awarded to his parachuting SAS War Dog Rob
A medal, awarded to a War Dog named Rob who served with the Special Air Service Regiment during the Second World War, will be offered for sale by Noonans on 12 October.
Rob, a Collie-Retriever cross, undertook 20 parachute descents while serving with Infantry in North Africa and the 2nd SAS Regiment in Italy.
Now, a County Antrim man is selling the hugely emotive PDSA Dickin Medal for Gallantry, otherwise known as the VC for animals, awarded to his brave childhood pet.
The medal, with a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-£30,000, will be sold along with the RSPCA Red Collar for Valour and an extensive archive, which includes a portrait painting, Rob’s collar, photographs, certificate, manuscripts, books and letters.
Rob was bought as a puppy from Colemere Farm near Ellesmere in Shropshire in 1939 for five shillings.
He lived his early years with Basil Bayne - who later moved to Northern Ireland - and his family.
The Baynes resided in nearby Tetchill and Rob was their farm dog and pet. In 1942, Rob’s owners volunteered him as a War Dog and he was signed up on 19 May that year.
Following action in the North Africa campaign, from September 1943, Rob served with the Special Air Service Regiment (SAS), the first war dog to do so.
With the regiment, he took part in operations in Italy, parachuting in on sabotage missions.
A very young Basil learnt to walk by holding onto Rob’s tail or clutching his coat and, if he was crying, Rob would put his front paws up on the pram, sooth him and make him laugh.
Basil recalled: “Following his wartime exploits, Rob was returned to us and settled back into life on the farm, occasionally making public appearances to help raise funds for returning Prisoners of War and their families.
“In February 1948 he disappeared for five days with his companion, our other dog Judy, a spaniel.
“Rob returned in an emaciated condition without his collar - his collar was what we called his everyday collar.
“It had red, white and blue ribbon all around it.
“Several years later, a local farm worker out rabbiting with a spade found the collar hooked around the root of a tree.
“Rob had strained and lost weight until he was able to slip the collar over his head.
“This dilapidated collar, now missing all ribbons, is among the items in the auction and the strain on the holes in the collar is obvious!” Basil added.
Instituted by Maria Dickin CBE, the founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals in 1943, the Dickin Medal has since been awarded on 71 occasions - 32 of them going to pigeons, 34 to dogs, four to horses and one to a cat.
The vast majority (and all those awards to pigeons) were granted in respect of acts of bravery during the Second World War but, more recently, a number of awards have been made to Arms and Explosives Search Dogs of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps for their gallantry in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the time of receiving the award, Rob’s owner Edward Bayne (Basil’s father) told the Oban Times how caring he had been as a farm dog: ‘He used to help settle the chicks in their houses at night, picking them up in his mouth when they had strayed away - he had a wonderful mouth - and tucking them in under their mothers’, he remarked.
Christopher Mellor-Hill, head of client liaison at Noonans, commented: “‘Rob the Parachuting Dog’ is the most famous of all the Dickin Medal recipients and we are delighted to be offering his medals on behalf of the family who owned him.
“Rob was the first War Dog attached to the SAS to be awarded the ‘animal VC’, and was reportedly the only War Dog to have been nominated for the Dickin Medal by the War Office.
“Demobilised on 27 November 1945, Rob led the Wembley Parade of 32 War Dogs on 16 July 1947 in front of 10,000 spectators, being the only dog present to hold both the Dickin Medal and the RSPCA Red Collar and Medallion for Valour.
“Over the years, books have been written about him and he even featured on the front page of the Radio Times. We believe this to be the most important Dickin Medal to ever be sold at auction,” he concluded.