Civilian Life




Reproduced with permission from The Beacon Supplement


Sgt. Gander – The Newfoundland Dog

Gander or “Pal” as he was known to Eileen (Chafe) Elms and her friends was the pet dog of a Mr. Ron Hayden, a Shell Oil employee at Gander during the war.

In this familiar photo, Pal is pulling a sled occupied by Eileen, Jack Hayden and Mike Ratcliffe. 


Pal became part of the war effort after an unfortunate accident with Eileen’s sister, Joan.   Gander would often play with the children, jumping on them and wrestling and having great fun.  It was during one particular playtime that he accidentally scraped Joan’s face with his paws causing marks that really needed a doctor.  The owners were extremely upset and consideration was given to putting Pal down but nobody, especially the children wanted this to happen. 

Pal was eventually given to the Queen’s Own Rifles Regiment and became their mascot. The Regiment along with Pal was ultimately shipped out to Hong Kong in 1941. By this time Pal had been renamed “Gander” by his new owners.

In 1948 a special envelope was issued to commemorate the bravery and actions of Sgt. Gander.


In the year 2000, there appeared in the media an announcement that a Newfoundland dog named Gander was given the Dickin Medal at the biennial reunion of the Quebec-Maritime branch of the Hong Kong Veterans of Canada in Fredericton, N.B.  The Dickin Medal is recognized as the animal’s Victoria Cross and is awarded to animals by the PDSA [i] who have displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces.  This prestigious award was granted to Gander many years after his death for his part in defending Canadian and other Commonwealth troops against the enemy.  Gander did this at least three times during the battle of the Lye Mun on Hong King Island in 1941.


 Gander -­ Newfoundland

Date of Award: awarded posthumously on 27 October 2000

“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.”


Maria Dickin instituted the Dickin Medal in 1943 to acknowledge outstanding acts of bravery by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence units. It has become recognized as the animals' Victoria Cross', and is administered by PDSA. The PDSA created a second animal bravery award, the PDSA Gold Medal, in 2002, which is now recognized as the animal equivalent of the George Cross.


researched by Carol Walsh & R G Pelley

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