Rob the war dog's gallantry medals fetch record price for Co Antrim man
A MEDAL for gallantry awarded to a dog owned by a Co Antrim man in his youth has fetched a record price at auction.
Rob, a collie-retriever cross who was the childhood family pet of Basil Bayne, completed more than 20 parachute jumps in World War II, working in north Africa and latterly in sabotage operations behind enemy lines in Italy with the SAS.
Mr Bayne was raised on a farm in Shropshire, where Rob lived before and after seeing active service, but moved to Northern Ireland in 1973 to take up a lecturing post at Loughry College.
The so-called war dog's exploits led him to be awarded the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals' (PDSA) Dickin Medal for Gallantry, known as the Victoria Cross for animals.
The medal, along with books, photos and a collar, were sold at auction on Wednesday.
The items together raised £140,000, far exceeding Mr Bayne's expectations.
Sold by London medal auctioneer Noonans, the sale broke the previous world record for a Dickin Medal which had been awarded to a pigeon for its gallantry during D-Day.
Mr Bayne plans to donate the funds to the Taylor McNally Foundation, which trains and educates people on poultry husbandry.
"Wow, I have just picked myself off the floor," he said on hearing the news.
"I can't believe the price but I am so delighted that Rob's story and legacy is held in such high respect and that the important roll that him and many other animals have played in conflict is being recognised."
The Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943 by the PDSA founder Maria Dickin, and is the highest award an animal can receive whilst serving in military conflict.
The medal has been awarded 74 times since then, with dogs, horses and a cat honoured.
Among those to receive the medal was Paddy the pigeon, who was trained by Andrew Hughes from Carnlough, Co Antrim, and was the fastest pigeon to arrive back in England with news of the success of the D-Day invasion.
His medal was sold at auction for almost £7,000 in September 1999.