A hero dog which saved his handler from drowning after being ‘conscripted’ into the British Army has been honoured with his own life-size bronze statue in his hometown of Strathaven.
The memorial to Khan is to be formally unveiled in the Common Green tomorrow (Sunday, November 7), almost exactly 77 years after he pulled Lance Corporal Jimmy Muldoon from the sea after his landing craft was bombed by German forces defending Walcheren Island, in the Netherlands.
German Shepherd Khan had been a family pet before being offered for service, and for his heroics was awarded the ‘Animal’s Victoria Cross’, the PDSA Dickin Medal. He was also honoured with the title ‘Rifleman Khan’ by the 6th Battalion Cameronians with whom he served.
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Lance Corporal Muldoon’s son, Jim Muldoon, said he would be honoured to unveil the statue showing Khan with his father, created by celebrated artist John McKenna, whose other work includes the statue of Billy McNeill outside Celtic Park.
Mr Muldoon said: “I have a great deal to be grateful to Khan for. There is no doubt he saved my father’s life as he could not swim and was being pulled under water by his pack. I guess I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Khan, and I am so pleased the good folk of Strathaven have decided to honour him for his heroism.”
The mission the handler and dog were involved in, one night in November 1944 during the Battle of the Sheldt, was part of the retaking of Europe by Allied forces. As they approached Walcheren Island bombs started to rain down and several landing craft were hit.
Khan had already made it to shore when he heard Lance-Corporal Muldoon’s cries for help and he leapt back into the sea and swam 200 metres to him. According to other unit members who witnessed the event, Khan then literally dragged his handler back through the water to the safety of the shore, where he lay beside his handler, both exhausted.
It was regiment members themselves who called for Khan’s bravery to be celebrated. He served out the war before returning home – to the Railton family in Tolworth, Surrey – and in 1947 was awarded the Dickin Medal.
However, Lance Corporal Muldoon was invited to the ceremony and when the Railton family saw the close bond between him and Khan they agreed that the dog should return with him to his home in Strathaven where they both lived out their lives.
That remarkable bond is beautifully illustrated in John McKenna’s bronze statue, which will be unveiled in a ceremony to be attended by more than 300 dignitaries and residents – including some who helped raise the £60,000 needed to make the statue a reality.
Mr McKenna said: “It’s an incredible story and I am really honoured to have been part of the effort to have Khan and Jimmy immortalised. Thanks to photos of Khan and Jimmy I was able to capture the way they looked, but I hope I was also able to show their remarkable relationship.”
Margaret Cooper, a local councillor who was the driving force behind the project, said it had really fired up the imagination of local people.
She said: “A prominent local businessman very generously put up about half of the money needed, but the rest came from local donations and fundraising such as a raffle. We were also grateful for a donation from a fund from renewable energy that is run by South Lanarkshire Council.
“People in Strathaven are really proud to have been home to Jimmy and Khan and we now have a new landmark that will tell their story for many decades to come.”
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