b. ? Northumberland. d. ?
DATE OF DM ACTION: 16/12/1944 Cheviot Hills, Northumberland.
Sheila was a border collie, who became the first “civilian” animal with no connection to the military to be awarded the Dickin Medal. She was a working sheepdog in Northumberland owned by John Dagg. She avoided the call from the War Office as she was in a reserved occupation doing important work rounding up sheep across the remote Cheviot Hills.
On 16th December 1944, Thirty-nine 303rd BG aircraft flew as the 41 CBW-A Group to attack Ulm. The formation was recalled due to adverse weather conditions and turned back at 1005 hours over England. Bombs were jettisoned in the North Sea before the aircraft returned. Some of the aircraft landed at an RAF airfield at Kirmington, England.
One of the 303rd BG(H) B-17s became lost and crashed into a mountain southeast of Edinburgh, Scotland. The B-17, #44-6504 (No Name), 360BS, was on its third mission. After the mission was recalled, the Fortresses broke formation on the return route and were ordered to land separately at various bases to avoid mid-air collisions. The Pilot, 2Lt George A. Kyle, executed a 180 degree turn back toward England and, at the same time, began his descent. On several occasions, he requested headings, only to discover that they were coming from German transmitters. Twice he found himself heading toward France. He descended to 3,000 ft., attempted to find a hole in the clouds, and retained his bombs, not knowing where they might drop. At 1315 hours, the west hill of the Cheviot at 2,600 ft. one of the highest points in England, suddenly loomed out of the snow. His B-17 struck the mountainside and skidded across a bog, with the peat absorbing some of the impact.
F/O Fred Holcombe, Navigator, and Sgt Frank R. Turner, Togglier, were killed instantly. Fires erupted from the ruptured hydraulic and fuel lines, but the RDX bombs did not explode. Lt Kyle was pulled from the aircraft by his copilot, F/O James H. Hardy. The cockpit crewmen, Kyle, with a broken jaw, Hardy, and Sgt E. C. Schieferstein, the engineer, wandered down the hill, found a farm house, and were taken to an RAF first aid station near Berwick.
The four men in the back of the aircraft all suffered minor injuries. Sgt J. A. Berly, radio operator, tried to put out the bomb bay fire, but his foot became entangled in the plywood floor and a mass of peat. Waist Gunner, Sgt William R Kaufmann, who had been knocked unconscious during the crash, regained consciousness in time to pull Sgt Berly free and to assist Sgt George P. Smith, ball turret gunner, from the plane. The three men found tail gunner Sgt Howard F. Delany wandering around in deep snow, bleeding from a severe head wound. They left the aircraft and found shelter in a ditch 100 yards away.
After several hours, Sgt Smith felt a dog licking his face. The dog’s barking brought two shepherds, John Dagg and Frank Moscrop, to the ditch. They had been searching in the storm with Dagg’s collie Sheila for survivors. Sheila led the group through the blizzard to Dagg’s cottage. The B-17 blew up with a window-shattering explosion just as they reached the cottage. Dagg’s daughter ran two miles through the storm to summon help by telephone. Later that night the four sergeants were taken to the same RAF hospital that treated the other crewmen.
John Dagg and Frank Moscrop, the shepherds, were awarded the British Empire Medal in June 1945, in ceremonies on the Cheviot. This was Dagg’s second medal for rescue efforts during the war. One of Sheila’s puppies, Tibbie, was later sent to the family of Sgt Frank Turner who did not survive the crash on the mountain. A film called To The Border Bred was later produced which told the story of Sheila and followed Tibbie as she travelled to South Carolina.
The two medals, along with Dagg’s First World War medals and newspaper clippings about the crash, were sold by Sotheby’s auction house on 13 December 2005 for £25,300 (ca. $40,488.00 American dollars).
For assisting in the rescue of four American Airmen lost on the Cheviots in a blizzard after an air crash in December, 1944.
BURIAL LOCATION: UNKNOWN.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOLD AT AUCTION FOR £25,300 IN DECEMBER 2015.