Our Pal, Gander the Newfoundland

This is the story of a Newfoundland dog. It story is set in Newfoundland, in the town of Gander. The dog in this story is named Gander. The potential for confusion is high but it starts out simply enough...

In the early days of aviation Gander Airport played an important role in trans-Atlantic flight. Planes crossing the ocean stopped at the airport to refuel. One of the first refuelling vehicles was decidedly low-tech. It consisted of a 45-gallon drum lashed to a sled and towed by an enthusiastic Newfoundland dog named Pal. He would haul the fuel from the reservoirs, across the snowy airfield, to the waiting planes but Pal didn’t stay a sled dog for long.

Pal was adopted by the Royal Rifles of Canada. The regiment they renamed him Gander in honour of his hometown. In October of 1941 the Royal Rifles shipped out for Hong Kong and took their new mascot with them.

At war Gander became more than a mascot. He served alongside the soldiers he lived with, proving his loyalty. The regiment told stories of Gander halting enemy advances, guarding and protecting wounded soldiers.

Finally, in December 1941, Gander died. During an enemy assault, a grenade was fired close to the regiment. Pal, picked-up the grenade in his teeth and ran away from his regiment. When the grenade exploded, he was killed.

Without question, his actions saved many lives.

When the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial was established in Ottawa it listed the soldiers who served in the battle. The survivors insisted that Gander’s name be added. He was awarded the Dickin Medal (the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross) for his bravery.

Today there is a statue of Gander/Pal in his hometown along with a plaque reminding people that he was a very good boy, indeed.


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