News story

Hero dog Theo receives animals' Victoria Cross

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Military working dog Theo has been awarded a posthumous Dickin Medal for saving countless soldiers' lives in Afghanistan.

Theo, a Springer Spaniel, whose handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker was killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan in March 2011, died of a seizure just hours later.

The heroic dog was deployed with Lance Corporal 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, IEDs and bomb-making equipment.

Lance Corporal Tasker’s mother, Jane Duffy, and other family members attended a special ceremony at London’s Wellington Barracks for the presentation of the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) Dickin Medal, awarded by the veterinary charity for ‘conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict’.

Mrs Duffy described Theo as her son’s ‘best mate’ and said they were together ‘24/7’ in Afghanistan. She went on to say:

Liam got his Mention in Despatches, so it’s lovely that Theo is getting his PDSA Dickin Medal and he’s being recognised for his bravery as well.

Without doubt, Theo’s actions in Afghanistan saved many human lives,” said the charity’s chairman, Michael Bolton.

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.

Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo (All rights reserved.)
Lance Corporal Liam Tasker and Theo (All rights reserved.)

Theo helped uncover not only hidden explosive devices, but also 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 of 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 died.

The partnership of Lance Corporal Tasker and Theo, described by colleagues as ‘inseparable’, had been hugely successful.

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.

During the Second World War, the PDSA’s founder, Maria Dickin, was inspired by incredible bravery displayed by animals on active service and the Home Front and introduced a special medal specifically for animals in war in recognition of conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty in saving human life while serving in military conflicts.

The PDSA Dickin Medal has existed since 1943 and has been awarded to 28 dogs including Theo, 32 Second World War messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.