Really interesting series on Radio 4 - all programmes still available (probably for a short time only) via BBC website on the 'listen again' system: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/animals_vc.shtml Animals have been used in war for centuries by man but only recently has there been recognition for their bravery and extraordinary commitment to duty in wartime. Since 1943, 60 animals have been awarded The Dickin Medal - the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Presented by Dylan Winter, "The Animals' VC" brings to life through archive and interviews with ex-servicemen or their family members, the stories of pigeons, dogs, horses and one cat - all of which through the course of their duty saved human life and provided vital companionship in times of terrible conflict. The Medal came into being in 1943 at the suggestion of a pioneering woman, Maria Dickin, who had founded the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) in 1917. During the Second World War she felt inspired by the displays of bravery shown by animals used in active service to introduce a medal to recognise their efforts. Parachuting dogs? Surely not? But yes, during the Second World War a working farm dog - a collie called Rob - was to play a vital role in being parachuted in behind enemy lines with his SAS unit where he was trained to watch over and protect the exhausted men as they slept inbetween carrying out their undercover operations. He made over 20 descents during his time with Units in North Africa and Italy. In addition to those dogs serving abroad with regiments, some dogs played a vital role at home. Beauty was a wire-haired terrier who led one of the PDSA's Animal Rescue Squads that operated during the Second World War. Beauty's role was to seach for pet animals that had become trapped with their owners in the rubble following bombing raids in London. She came to be thought of as the pioneer dog for this kind of work and in her wartime service rescued 63 animals. She received her Dickin Medal in 1945. The first animals to receive Dickin Medals were pigeons. Thousands of pigeons were used as carriers/messengers during the Second World War as during communication black-outs they could carry messages home silently and usually unspotted by the enemy. Winkie was one of the first 3 recipients of the Dickin Medal - she was a messenger pigeon on an aircraft which had to ditch due to engine trouble. As the aircraft hit the water she broke free. Arriving at her loft in Scotland, her owner was able to roughly tell from the state of her oiled and bedraggled feathers how long she had been flying for and how many miles she may have covered - combined with the last known position of the aircraft, this information aided the search party in locating the downed plane and the crew were rescued. Later on in the war, another pigeon called Gustav was to have his moment of glory. Rather fittingly with the 60th anniversary of the D-day landings taking place, Gustav's claim to fame was that he delivered the first message from Normandy to his base at Thorney Island near Portsmouth.