Sergeant Gander died more than six decades ago, but his legacy still lives on as an infamous Canadian war hero. And now his image will be forever memorialized in a bronze statue that was unveiled at the Gander Heritage Memorial Park in Canada last week. His name also appears on the Hong Kong Veterans Memorial Wall in Ottawa.
Gander, a Newfoundland, served The Royal Rifles of Canada during World War II, deploying to Hong Kong in 1941. During the Battle of Hong Kong, he carried a grenade thrown by Japanese troops over a hill, saving the lives of seven men. Sadly, the grenade exploded while the dog was carrying it in his mouth, killing him.
“Without Gander’s intervention many more lives would have been lost in the assault,” reads the description of Gander’s Dickin Medal, an honor awarded to military dogs, which Gander was awarded posthumously in 2000.
Gander was originally a pet dog, named Pal, owned by Rod Hayden, who worked for Shell Oil Company near the local Gander airport, where planes refilled before flying to England. Pal helped out, carrying petrol to the airplanes. He was offered to The Royal Rifles by his owner who feared the dog would be killed after he accidentally scratched the face of a little girl in the neighborhood. The Royal Rifles happily accepting his “enlistment,” changed his name to Gander, and made him their official mascot.
But he proved even more useful with the war effort helping overseas, protecting the soldiers against the enemy on multiple occasions. His full story appears in the book Sergeant Gander: A Canadian War Hero.
Philip Doddridge, who served with Sergaent Gander, attended the ceremony held to unveil the statues, one of Gander and one of a soldier representing the Royal Rifles.
"He was very much loved by all of us, he followed us to Hong Kong and was killed in action," Doddridge said of Gander to CBC.
See the unveiling here: