Sheila: Only Non-Military Dog to Receive Dickin Medal

Sheila, a shepherd's dog, became famous in history for finding four American airmen lost on the Cheviot Hills in a blizzard after a crash during the Second World War.

John Dagg and Sheila

On December 16, 1944, John Dagg of Dunsdale and his dog Sheila had finished their tasks tending to the sheep around lunchtime when they heard the engines of a plane overhead and then the sound of it crashing way up the hill. Dagg and his collie climbed the hill in fog and snow to see if they could help. At the top of the hill the snow was blowing hard making it difficult to see the plane.

The plane was a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress from the US 8th Air Force carrying a full payload of bombs. Sheila was able to lead Dagg to the aircraft and to four airmen who were taking shelter in a nearby crevice. Dagg and another shepherd who heard the crash helped the airmen down the hill. One was badly injured. Shortly after they reached Dagg's cottage the bombs on the B-17 exploded, shattering two windows in the house.

Because of their actions, Lt George Kyle, Sgt Howard Delaney, Sgt George Smith and Sgt Joel Berly survived. It was later discovered that two airmen died in the crumpled nose of the plane when it crashed and three others had found their way down the hill believing they were the only survivors.

For their bravery Dagg and the other shepherd, Frank Moscrop, received the British Empire Medal and Sheila was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal. Sheila is the only civilian to receive the medal that is often referred to as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

In 1946 one of Sheila's puppies named Tibbie was sent to America to the family of Sgt Turner who did not survive the B-17 crash.