Pioneering RAF Police Dog To Receive Animals’ Victoria Cross

FeaturesWagging Tales

A retired RAF Police Dog received the prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal – the animals’ Victoria Cross – for his life-saving devotion to duty, protecting British and Allied troops while serving in Afghanistan, in 2013.

A pioneer in his field, Hertz is the first dog in British military history to detect electronic communications equipment such as mobile phones, voice recorders, SIM cards and GPS devices.

Throughout his time in Afghanistan, Hertz was responsible for finding more than 100 items of contraband, including drugs and Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs), all of which posed a significant threat to the lives of servicemen, women and civilians.

The ten-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, Hertz, was formally presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal – the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – by veterinary charity PDSA’s Director General at a special ceremony today (22 February 2022) at the Royal Air Force Club in Mayfair, London. Hertz is the 74th recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal; joining a prestigious line-up of brave dogs, pigeons, horses and a cat.

Discussing the award, PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Hertz is a truly remarkable animal hero and a trailblazer in his field. His exceptional skills undoubtedly protected troops from the ever-evolving advances in digital intelligence. His actions changed the course of countless missions, saving the lives of military personnel and civilians.

“For this bravery and devotion to duty, we are honoured to welcome him as the latest recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.”

Hertz’s Story

Originally bred in Croatia, Hertz joined the Royal Air Force Police as a one-year-old puppy after showing exceptional skills in drug detection. His natural talent saw that he was selected as the first-ever Military Working Dog to be trained to detect the presence of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs).

Having never trained a dog to find such items within the British military before, advice and effective training methods were sought from the Prison Service, where sniffer dogs are used frequently to detect electronic contraband. After weeks of intense specialist training, Hertz quickly showed signs of exceptional skill and it wasn’t long before Hertz and his handler, Warrant Officer Jonathan Tanner, were deployed to Afghanistan.

The duo worked together daily within numerous military and local civilian compounds within Camp Bastion and on his very first search, Hertz discovered a find that comprised of both drugs and electronic devices, and the latter was successful in supporting intelligence purposes. In doing so Hertz secured and protected Camp Bastion against the threat of both an intruder and insider attacks. These threats had previously claimed the lives of UK and US servicemen and women.

News of Hertz’ success spread fast, and he was deployed to locations throughout Helmand and Kabul, where his role was the same: to ensure that areas were free of PED’s and drugs to secure the safety of military personnel and local people.

At the end of Warrant Officer Tanner’s deployment, Hertz was assigned to work with Corporal Simon Dack and despite the change of handler, Hertz continued to work with pinpoint accuracy.

Many of the items he found led directly to the gathering of intelligence about potential threats and attacks on British and Allied personnel. Hertz’s impact was without parallel – his ability to remove potentially dangerous items undoubtedly saved many lives. 

During the 13 months of Hertz’s tour, there was not a single rocket attack on Camp Bastion. His work was vital to ensure the safety of all the personnel working there, both military and civilian. 

Hertz’s unique set of skills had never been seen before in military theatre. His specialist training prevented attacks and uncovered intelligence and in the ever-changing environment of military conflict, Hertz was at the cutting edge of defending troops from the ever-evolving advances in digital intelligence. His work undoubtedly saved many lives, making him a worthy recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.

Watch Hertz’s incredible story:

Award Reaction

Commenting on Hertz’s PDSA Dickin Medal, the veterinary charity’s Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: “Hertz’s exceptional abilities were apparent to all who served alongside him, and he was clearly a vital part of the team whose work helped to save many lives. His bravery and devotion make him a thoroughly deserving recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal.”

Reacting to the award, Provost Marshal (RAF) Group Captain Russ Foster-Jones, said: “We are honoured that Hertz has been awarded the prestigious PDSA Dickin Medal. He is a one-of-a-kind and his story demonstrates just how important animals are to our armed forces, and the key life-saving roles that they play. Hertz richly deserves this honour and I think I can say from all of those that worked alongside him that we are incredibly proud that PDSA has recognised such a remarkable dog.”

Instituted in 1943, the PDSA Dickin Medal is a large, bronze medallion bearing the words “For Gallantry” and “We Also Serve” all within a laurel wreath. The ribbon is striped green, dark brown and sky blue representing water, earth and air to symbolise the naval, land and air forces. Hertz is the 74th recipient of the PDSA Dickin Medal. Other recipients of the PDSA Dickin Medal include 37 dogs (including Hertz), 32 World War II messenger pigeons, four horses and one cat. 

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