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Crumstone Irma, a.k.a. Irma, was a German Shepherd Dog who assisted in the rescue of 191 people trapped under blitzed buildings while serving with London's Civil Defence Services during the Second World War. During this period she worked with her handler and owner, Mrs Margaret Griffin, and another dog named Psyche. Noted for her ability to tell if buried victims were dead or alive, she was awarded the Dickin Medal in 1945,[3][4] and is buried at the PDSA Animal Cemetery, Ilford.

Crumstone Irma
Other name(s)Irma, The Blitz Dog[1]
BornSouth Stoke, Goring-on-Thames[2]
Resting placePDSA Animal Cemetery, Ilford
51°35′13″N 0°2′45″W / 51.58694°N 0.04583°W / 51.58694; -0.04583
Nation fromUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Notable roleSearch and rescue dog
OwnerMrs Margaret Griffin[2]
AwardsDickin Medal


Rescue careerEdit

Irma's gravestone in Ilford

Irma was initially used as a messenger dog to relay messages when telephone lines were down. She was teamed with another dog from the same kennel, named Crumstone Psyche (commonly referred to as Psyche), and they were both retrained to become search and rescue dogs.[5] The pair of dogs were handled by their owner, Mrs Margaret Griffin, and together the two dogs found 233 people, of which 21 were found alive.[6]

In one incident, Irma refused to give up on the scent of two girls who were trapped under a fallen building for two days.[7]

Irma specialised in being able to bark differently depending on whether the buried victim was dead or alive. This included one occasion when Irma signaled with an "alive" bark and rescuers dug out a victim who was apparently dead. Irma was proved correct, as the man eventually stirred.[8]

Following their work during the Second World War they became demonstration dogs along with Crumstone Storm at the Dog School in Gloucester.[9]


She was awarded the Dickin Medal on 12 January 1945 with a citation that read "For being responsible for the rescue of persons trapped under blitzed buildings while serving with the Civil Defences of London."[10] Irma, along with Jet was one of two dogs to participate in the London Victory Celebrations of 1946 held in Pall Mall, London on 8 June 1946. Both wore their Dickin Medals during the parade.[11]

Irma's owner, Mrs Margaret Griffin, was awarded the British Empire Medal for her work in training her dogs and accompanying them on rescue missions.[1]

The Dickin Medal is often referred to as the animal metaphorical equivalent of the Victoria Cross.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Clark, Louise. "Animals in War" (PDF). Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 September 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Crufts Catalogue 1961 (Part 2)" (PDF). The Kennel Club. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  3. ^ "Animals at War photos" (PDF). Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  4. ^ Judd, Terri (16 August 2000). "'Animal VC' will honour Gander's dash for grenade". The Independent. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  5. ^ Gardiner, Judy. "Animals at War: Part One: Dogs of War". The Free Library. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  6. ^ Essex-Lopresti, Tim (ed.). "A Brief History of Civil Defence" (PDF). Civil Defence Association. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  7. ^ "In pictures: Heroic Dogs". BBC News. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  8. ^ Jenson, Gregory (17 October 1983). "Britain Salutes Animal War Heroes". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  9. ^ "Crufts Catalogue 1961: Part 3" (PDF). The Kennel Club. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 March 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  10. ^ "Dickin Medal dogs". People's Dispensary for Sick Animals. Archived from the original on 12 February 2010. Retrieved 14 September 2014.
  11. ^ "Dog "V C" Winners in Victory Parade". The Argus. 31 May 1946. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  12. ^ Long, David (2012). The animals' VC: for gallantry and devotion: the PDSA Dickin Medal - inspiring stories of bravery and courage. London: Preface. ISBN 9781848093768.

External linksEdit