Ilford Animal Cemetery
The PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford, Essex is the final resting place for 12 recipients of the PDSA Dickin Medal - the animals’ Victoria Cross - awarded for bravery during World War II. In 2006, thanks to a grant from The People’s Millions project, the cemetery and the headstones of the animal war heroes underwent a sympathetic restoration.
The Cemetery dates from the 1920s and is tucked away in a quiet spot behind Ilford PDSA PetAid branch.
A grant from The People’s Millions project, administered by The Big Lottery Fund, enabled PDSA to renovate the Cemetery and improve access to the site in 2007. Many of the animals’ graves were restored and new headstones were erected for the hero animals where needed.
The project included the creation of a new visitors’ centre and a Garden of Remembrance, designed by Bob Flowerdew of BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time.
The Garden offers a place of quiet contemplation for animal lovers. It was designed to reflect the colours of the PDSA Dickin Medal ribbon - green, brown and pale blue to symbolise the sea, land and air forces. It includes a memorial stone bearing the inscription "Love’s final gift – Remembrance" as well as a specially-commissioned bench donated by the Amalgamation of Racing Pigeons.
Read the amazing stories of just four of the PDSA Dickin Medal holders buried at the Cemetery below.
The PDSA Animal Cemetery can be found at Woodford Bridge Road, Redbridge, Ilford, Essex, IG4 5PS.
If you would like a guided tour of the cemetery please contact Gill Hubbard on 01952 290999 to arrange a suitable date.
Search and Rescue dog, Peter, came with a bad reputation for fighting other dogs and destroying his owner’s belongings. However, his service during World War II was outstanding and he became a reformed character. His PDSA Dickin Medal citation reads:
For locating victims trapped under blitzed buildings while serving with MAP (Ministry of Aircraft Production) attached to Civil Defence of London.
The information he gave to his handler resulted in the saving of many lives and he was singled out for special attention at the Civil Defence Stand-Down parade in Hyde Park before the King and Queen and Princess Elizabeth in 1946.
Rip the dog was found homeless and starving after a bombing raid in 1940 when he became the mascot of the Southill Street Air Raid Patrol in Poplar, East London. During heavy gunfire and bombing raids, Rip was always on duty, never getting in the way, but working quickly to sniff out casualties. He had over five years’ active service to his credit, and his PDSA Dickin Medal citation reads:
For locating many air-raid victims during the blitz of 1940.
Able Seacat Simon was posthumously awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal in 1949 for his service on HMS Amethyst during the Yangtze Incident. Despite being injured by a shell blast that killed 17 men, including the ship's Captain, Simon bravely continued to catch the rats that were stealing the crew’s meagre rations while the ship was held captive on the river. On returning home, Simon's exploits made him a celebrity - he even received his own fan mail!
Simon was buried in the cemetery with full Naval honours, his coffin draped in a Union Jack flag.
Tich the dog was adopted by Rifleman Thomas Walker of 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps before El Alamein and serviced in North Africa and Italy until the end of WWII. Tich accompanied Walker on the front line all through the fighting in Italy, riding on the Bren gun carrier or on the bonnet of a jeep. Tich was severely wounded several times but always refused to leave her post even when under heavy fire.