A Belgian Malinois who helped save the lives of troops in Afghanistan will receive the prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal - the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross - today at a ceremony at The People's Palace, London.
Eight-year-old Mali, a British Military Working dog (MWD), is being recognised for his heroic actions during a highly sensitive operation in 2012, where he assisted an assault force in securing a key enemy stronghold.
The highly prestigious award was first introduced by PDSA's founder, Maria Dickin CBE, in 1943 and is the highest award any animal can achieve while serving in military conflict. Mali's PDSA Dickin Medal is particularly unique as it bears a commemorative 'Centenary' bar, to mark its presentation on the charity's 100th birthday.
Mali, who is attached to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC), is trained to sniff out explosives and detect insurgents. His expertise during one particular operation was vital in helping the UK forces and its allies secure a key enemy stronghold, situated in a multi-storey building, amid sustained fire. Mali was seriously injured in the melée but continued with his duties and has since recovered back home.
Commenting on Mali’s PDSA Dickin Medal, the charity’s Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said, "Mali has displayed a truly awesome ability and determination to seek out explosives and insurgents during a key operation. To achieve this while exposed to close combat and such intense enemy attack, makes him an incredibly worthy recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal. It is even more poignant that we were able to make Mali’s award today on our charity’s 100th birthday."
Although retired from front line duties, Mali continues to work at the RAVC’s Defence Animal Centre in Leicestershire, where he and his current handler Corporal Daniel Hatley, help to train new dog handlers.
Mali’s current handler Corporal Daniel Hatley commented, "I am extremely proud of Mali. The way he conducted himself when it mattered most enabled my colleagues to achieve success in close combat. Being awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal recognises Mali’s vital role within the force that day."
Lieutenant Colonel Abby DuBaree from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps adds "Mali’s PDSA Dickin Medal is extremely well deserved. Stories like Mali’s are sobering to read and help to demonstrate the key role that animals continue to play in our armed forces. Mali joins our distinguished roll of honour for Royal Army Veterinary Corps animals who have received the PDSA Dickin Medal. We are exceptionally proud of him. That this medal has also been bestowed by PDSA on the charity’s 100th birthday makes this honour even more special."
Mali will be the 69th recipient of the award. Other recipients include 31 dogs, 32 World War Two messenger pigeons, four horses and a cat. Read more of Mali's story here.