Rob the Parachuting War-Hero Dog

Status: Hoax
image A collie named Rob has long been celebrated as a hero of World War II. He received the Dickin Medal for Gallantry "For service including 20 parachute jumps while serving with Infantry in North Africa and SAS Regiment in Italy." However, Rob's plane-jumping exploits have now been exposed as a hoax.

Quentin "Jimmy" Hughes, a former SAS training officer, exposed the hoax in his recent autobiographical account of the SAS, Who Cares Who Wins? The London Times reports:
Far from doing 20 parachute drops, Rob did little more than act as a companion for Tom Burt, the quartermaster for 2nd SAS. His reputation was concocted when Rob’s owners, who had lent him to the Army Veterinary and Remount Services to help the war effort, wrote asking if they could have their dog back. Burt, who had grown attached to the dog, was upset at the prospect of losing him, so he and Hughes contrived to keep him in the regiment by sending him on a parachute jump. Hughes would then write to the family to say that Rob’s services were indispensable.
“We had a suitable parachute harness and I phoned through to the RAF and made arrangements for Rob to have a short flight,” Hughes wrote in his memoir. “Unfortunately, quite a strong wind blew up during the flight and the RAF decided it would be dangerous to drop Rob on that day.”
Hughes resolved to write the letter regardless, and thought that would be the end of the matter, but Rob’s owners were so proud that they passed the letter on to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), which awarded the dog the Dickin Medal for Gallantry — commonly described as the animals’ Victoria Cross.
I had never realized that dogs could make parachute jumps, but Wikipedia reports that the first parachute jumps, back in the late eighteenth century, were done by a dog:
The parachute was re-invented in 1783 by Sébastien Lenormand in France. Lenormand also coined the name parachute. Two years later, Jean-Pierre Blanchard demonstrated it as a means of safely disembarking from a hot air balloon. While Blanchard's first parachute demonstrations were conducted with a dog as the passenger, he later had the opportunity to try it himself when in 1793 his hot air balloon ruptured and he used a parachute to escape.
The BBC also notes that during WWII parachutes were made for pigeons. But if you're imagining pigeons with little harnesses around them, it's not quite like that. The pigeons were first put into containers and then dropped by parachute into France:
Ms Miles [curator of the Nelson museum] said up to 16,000 pigeons were dropped into France by this method, but only just over 1,800 made it back to Britain, as a lot could have perished unfound in their containers. "They were dropped in the hope that people who found them would return them with information. It was a brilliantly simple idea." Many may not have been found, but some could have fallen victim to a counter-attack strategy by the Nazis - a "squadron" of hawks posted at the French coasts to catch any pigeons winging their way across the English Channel.

Animals Military

Posted on Mon Jul 24, 2006


The BBC also notes that during WWII parachutes were made for pigeons. But if you're imagining pigeons with little harnesses around them, it's not quite like that. The pigeons were first put into containers and then dropped by parachute into France:

Did someone forget that pigeons can fly?
Posted by Sharruma  in  capable of finishing a coherent  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  03:10 PM
They were used to carry messages out of France. If they weren't in containers they would have immediately flown back to England, kind of negating the whole purpose of getting them over there in the first place. 😛
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  03:43 PM
I say Rob (memory of Rob) should keep the medal. Eventhough he didn't jump because of the bad weather, he still had the balls to get his gear on and get on the plane, and was ready to jump...
Posted by Grain  in  Bay Area, CA  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  04:10 PM
That's nothing, I once had a dog who singlehandedly stopped the outbreak of WWIII. All top secret of course, so I can't give you any details.

Posted by Winona  in  USA  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  04:52 PM
When my dad was in the Navy, chasing Indonesian infiltrants in the New Guinea jungle as Bren-gunner in a landing crew, they had a dog with them who would always jump out of the landing craft and swim ashore first. Untill one day, the brave animal suddenly disappeareed with a yelp in a big whirlpool. A shark or a croc, they never knew exactly. The brave dog that died in action never got a medal. This is him:

Posted by LaMa  in  Europe  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  05:30 PM
Winona: That's nothing. My dog single handedly stopped WW4! Top secret, under wraps, secret war over a Cheese factory in an undisclosed location. Yep. I can exclusively reveal that in the final minute of the conflict, where Indonesia and India were about to obtain the secret object hidden in the Cheese factory (the object was reportedly made out of cheese) my dog took it.

There. Beat that 😛
Posted by Soldant  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  06:10 PM
I'll see your cheese and raise you Magic Cheese ( 😉
Posted by Winona  in  USA  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  07:39 PM
Awww c'mon! That's not fair! Nothing beats Magic Cheese! How the hell do I compete with Magic Cheese?
Posted by Soldant  on  Mon Jul 24, 2006  at  07:52 PM
Getting back to the pigeons, I wonder if they really thought that idea all the way through.

Think about it, you're living in a war torn country side, living off short (if any) rations, and suddenly a crate of pigeons land in your field.

Would your first thought be "Oh boy, now I can send secret information to England!" or "Ma, heat the skillet, we eat tonight!"
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Tue Jul 25, 2006  at  09:35 AM
As this is the "museum" of hoaxes, it would probably be worth pointing out that this came up due to the Imperial War Museum's "Animals at War" exhibition. They had a piece on "Rob" which sparked newspaper reports based on "Who Cares Who Wins". The IWM still have the Rob bit on display AFAIK, as they haven't been shown conclusively that it was a hoax.
Posted by J Ferguson  on  Fri Aug 18, 2006  at  08:54 AM
There was an airshow act at back in the early 1990's that features "Ace the Wonder Dog" parachuting out of a PA-18 Super Cub. The act started with some mild aerobatics in the Super Cub, and the finale is Ace "jumping" (more like being thrown) out of the plane, and his parachute was opened by a lanyard that opened his chute. The funny part was after I saw him jump and land, he took a big dump almost immediately after landing. I guess I would too if I was thrown out of an airplane! The airshow was in Nashua, NH. I wish I could find that act now, I have no clue as to what happened to the dog, the act, or aircraft.
Posted by Scut Farkus  on  Sat Jul 10, 2010  at  11:04 AM
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