Digger receives the Blue Cross Award for bravery in WW1

22nd August 2019


The Hon. MARK PEARSON (15:00): Established in 1897, the Blue Cross Award is given to animals and people who have demonstrated bravery or heroism. Digger, the World War I dog, was awarded the Blue Cross Medal on 29 June 2019 in Australia. Digger is the first dog to be awarded the medal in Australia. He was the bravest dog in Australia. He was a boxer cross, and served 3½ years in one of the bloodiest World War I battles in Gallipoli and the Western Front. He was injured on the front because he went over the top—that is, up and out over the bunkers. The medical report stated that “he bears the marks of his wounds”: a hole in the lower jaw, three teeth gone, blind in the right eye, deaf in the left ear, he had to be put under chloroform to have the bullets extracted and he also suffered other permanent injuries from gassing—but he made it back to Australia. This is a poem by Dr Edmund Vance Cooke, who was in the First World War, calledRags:

We called him Rags. He was just a cur,

But twice, on the Western Line,

That little old bunch of faithful fur

Had offered his life for mine.

And all that he got was bones and bread,

Or the leavings of soldier grub,

But he’d give his heart for a pat on the head,

Or a friendly tickle and rub

And Rags got home with the regiment,

And then, in the breaking away—

Well, whether they stole him, or whether he went,

I am not prepared to say.

But we mustered out, some to beer and gruel

And some to sherry and shad,

And I went back to the Sawbones School,

Where I still was an undergrad.

One day they took us budding MDs

To one of those institutes

Where they demonstrate every new disease

By means of bisected brutes.

They had one animal tacked and tied

And slit like a full-dressed fish,

With his vitals pumping away inside

As pleasant as one might wish.

I stopped to look like the rest, of course,

And the beast’s eyes levelled mine;

His short tail thumped with a feeble force,

And he uttered a tender whine.

It was Rags, yes, Rags! who was martyred there,

Who was quartered and crucified,

And he whined that whine which is doggish prayer

And he licked my hand and died.

And I was no better in part nor whole

Than the gang I was found among,

And his innocent blood was on the soul

Which he blessed with his dying tongue.

Well I’ve seen men go to courageous death

In the air, on sea, on land!

But only a dog would spend his breath

In a kiss for his murderer’s hand.