Gander with members of the 1st Royal Rifles in Hong Kong image courtesy - Hong Kong Veterans Commemorative Association
Gander: A Newfoundland Hero Based on an article that appeared in Newf Tide written by Mary Jane Spackman with contributions from Sue Miller
Gander became the
Newfoundland mascot of Quebec City’s Royal Rifles of Canada by chance. He
began his life as a puppy named Pal with his family in Gander, Newfoundland. As
he grew he spent more and more time at the airport with the soldiers who were
assigned there. His family felt he was growing too big and the Royal Rifles
willingly adopted him as their mascot. His official name became Regimental
Mascot Sgt. Gander. Gander’s new life with the Rifles would cover many miles
and ultimately end at the battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island.
During his time as their
mascot, Gander proved his value more than once. There are at least three
documented instances of Gander protecting the troops. The first was when a wave
of attackers landed on the beach and Gander rushed at them barking and charging
at their legs. The second instance occurred at night. There was a group of
injured Canadians laying on the road and as a group of Japanese soldiers
advanced towards them, Gander flew at them, causing them to change direction.
The last heroic act by Gander
would cost him his life. A grenade was thrown towards a group of soldiers
commanded by Captain Gavey. The soldiers were unable to move away from the
grenade due to intense shooting from the Japanese. Gander ran forward, took the
grenade in his mouth and continued away from his men. Gander was killed by the
subsequent explosion but the men he served were saved by their loyal
Newfoundland mascot. This last act of heroism has been memorialized for eternity
by awarding Gander the Dickin Medal for "acts of conspicuous gallantry and
devotion to duty in wartime." The prestigious Dickin Medal was awarded by
the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) which is an animal veterinary
charity in the United Kingdom.
The inscription on Gander's Citation for Bravery reads as follows:
For saving the lives of Canadian Infantrymen during the Battle of Lye Mun on Hong Kong Island in December 1941. On three documented occasions “Gander” the Newfoundland mascot of the Royal Rifles of Canada engaged the enemy as his regiment joined the Winnipeg Grenadiers, members of Battalion Headquarters “C” Force and other Commonwealth troops in their courageous defence of the Island. Twice “Gander’s” attacks halted the enemy’s advance and protected groups of wounded soldiers. In a final act of bravery the war dog was killed in action gathering a grenade. Without “Gander’s” intervention many more lives would have been lost in the assault.