World War 2, a bit of nastiness with our traditional football rivals. Very noisy, was in all the papers. You must have heard of it.
There were many heroes in that war, there were many acts of valour, of incredible bravery. Some were recognised, most were not. This is a story of one player who was recognised, and awarded the highest medal his country had. This was Bing; a dog who was awarded the Dickens medal, known as 'the animal Victoria Cross'.
Let me first say that this is a childrens book, and a damned good one. Let me also say that I know the author who is a very old friend of mine, but that wouldn't influence me when reviewing this book. What did influence me was how good it is.
The book tells an unusual story, one far removed from the normal war tales, and is all the better for it.
Bing,an Alsatian cross ( as opposed to a cross Alsatian which we both encountered........but a different story, that.) was donated to the War office by a lady named Betty Fetch because she couldn't afford to feed it due to wartime strictures, and wanted the dog to be useful. That dog exceeded any expectations she may have had!
The book tells the story of how Bing was attached to 13 Parachute battalion and follows it's progress through basic training and then onto action. With his handler, Bing was parachuted into Frances a specialist with the Sniper and Recce platoon. He was trained to use his skills in spotting the enemy, locating machine gun positions, and also guarding his human comrades.
This dog took part in the invasion of France in 1944 and went on to be an important part of the unit's role in the Rhine crossings. Bing, along with his friend, Rob, a border collie serving with the Special air Service, bot were awarded the Dickens Medal as a recognition of their bravery and dedication.
It is a very good book, and one that I have been reading to my grandsons. They both enjoyed it and now are demanding that I take them to Duxford to see the display.
About the author. Gil Boyd was a serving soldier, with 2 Para, then having joined the police force, ( not a service then!) also joined the T.A and went on to become a WO1 RSM at ARRC, Germany.
Whilst serving in the police along with his close friend and colleague, Bob Reynolds, Gil became active in fund raising for Great ormond Street Childrens Hospital, and raised over £100.000 through various activities. Gil joined S.O.C.A and became involved in technical support and went on to invent many useful things, including WOLVES, a systemwhich involved a camera attached to the head of a dog and used in search and rescue. This was, and still is, used by the armed forces and civilian rescue and search teams. he was voted inventor of the year by BBC's Tomorrows World.
Gil now runs the Airborne Forces museum at IWM Duxford.
All profits from this book will go to 'The Afghanistan Trust' a charity set up by the family of Conrad Lewis, 4 Para, who was killed in Afghanistan.
Edited to add; the Afghan Trust was founded by Lt Col Tootal, in response to his disgust at the poor and shoddy way he felt his men were treated by the government, with regard to lack of equipment, etc. The Lewises founded the 353 charity, in honour of their son, with the intention of raising £353,000. My thanks to Gil Boyd for the clarification.
An excellent book, one that should - for many reasons - be on your bookshelves, even if you have no children. Buy it!
4 mushroom heads.