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DATE OF DM ACTION: 03/12/1944 Nederweent, Holland.
During the Second World War, Ricky, a Border Collie/Old English Sheepdog cross, was purchased by the father of Sheila Litchfield-Stander for seven shillings and six pence in Hastings while he was on Home Guard duty. The dog had previously been owned by a family who found themselves destitute. Soon afterwards, the Litchfield family moved to Sedlescombe, and again in 1941 they moved to Kent near to Biggin Hill airbase. After suffering from food shortages due to the ongoing rationing, Ricky was offered to the War Office to become a war dog.
He was assigned to Maurice Yielding during his military service after graduating from the War Dogs Training School at Northaw in Hertfordshire. Yielding and Ricky were assigned to the 279th Field Company, Royal Engineers of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division. In December 1944, they were in the Netherlands where they were assigned to mine clearance along the canals near Nederweert. His handler would send letters home to his family, but they found out the duo’s most famous action through a mention in dispatches. On 3 December 1944, Ricky found a number of land mines on the canals. During the process of mine clearing, his section commander was killed and Ricky himself suffered serious head injuries. Yielding expanded on this, saying that he and Ricky were both within 3 feet (0.91 m) of the mine when it exploded, and were in the middle of a mine field. Despite this, the pair continued to clear the mines from the surrounding area.
He was awarded a special collar by the War Office in recognition of his actions. After the end of the war, the military offered his family £25 to retain Ricky but they refused and he was returned home. It was the maximum amount allowed to be offered to retain a dog following war service. For his actions, Ricky was subsequently awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. This is considered to be the animal’s equivalent of the Victoria Cross. His award was announced alongside that of another dog, Brian, in March 1947. Their medals were presented to them by Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Bowhill.
Subsequently, his family has produced a range of dog products in his name, with Ricky’s face on some of the packaging.
This dog was engaged in cleaning the verges of the canal bank at Nederweent, Holland. He found all the mines but during the operation one of them exploded. Ricky was wounded in the head but remained calm and kept at work. Had he become excited he would have been a danger to the rest of the section working nearby.
BURIAL LOCATION: PDSA CEMETERY, ILFORD, ESSEX.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: UNKNOWN.