Military Working Dog Theo, who died just hours after his handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was killed in Afghanistan in 2011, will be posthumously honoured with the PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – next month.
Theo was deployed with LCpl Tasker as part of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps’ 1st Military Working Dog Regiment to Afghanistan in 2010. Their role was to provide search and clearance support, uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb-making equipment.
“We are very proud to posthumously award Theo the PDSA Dickin Medal, the highest award any animal can receive for life-saving bravery in conflict,” said PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin. “Theo’s exceptional devotion to duty as a Military Working Dog in Afghanistan saved countless human lives.
"The award of this medal, recognised worldwide as the Animals’ Victoria Cross, honours his service in life and his sacrifice in death. It serves as a very poignant reminder of the loyal companionship and dedication of man’s best friend.”
During his time in Afghanistan Theo made 14 confirmed operational finds, the most any Arms and Explosives Search dog in Afghanistan has found to date.
Theo helped uncover not only hidden explosive devices, but the materials that could be used to make them. During one operation Theo identified two bags of fertiliser and a large quantity of parts intended to make IEDs.
On 1 March 2011, Theo and Lance Corporal Tasker were on a mission in support of the Irish Guards in the Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand, when a fire-fight broke out, killing Lance Corporal Tasker. Theo was being taken back to Bastion when he started having seizures. Despite immediate first aid and veterinary treatment he unfortunately died.
The partnership of Lance Corporal Tasker and Theo, said by colleagues to be ‘inseparable’, had been hugely successful: they uncovered 14 home-made bombs and hoards of weapons in just five months, which certainly helped prevent hundreds of deaths. On one occasion, Theo found an underground tunnel leading to a room in which insurgents were suspected of making bombs and hiding from Coalition forces.
Theo’s actions saved many other soldiers and innocent civilians from death and serious injury.
Theo’s is the first PDSA Dickin Medal to be presented since 2010.
The Dickin Medal
During the Second World War (1939-45), PDSA's founder Maria Dickin CBE was aware of incredible bravery displayed by animals on active service and the Home Front. Inspired by the animals’ devotion to man and duty, she introduced a special medal specifically for animals in war.
The PDSA Dickin Medal was first instituted by the UK’s leading veterinary charity, PDSA, in 1943, is the highest award any animal can receive in recognition of conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty in saving human life while serving in military conflict.
The Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and pale blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces.
Theo’s posthumous presentation will bring the total number of PDSA Dickin Medals awarded to animals in war to 64. Since the introduction of the Medal by PDSA founder Maria Dickin CBE in 1943 it has been awarded to 28 dogs (including Theo), 32 World War II messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.