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Honouring Sergeant Gander


To increase youth awareness of the Defence of Hong Kong in the Second World War, and remember the sacrifices and achivements made by Canadians, including Sergeant Gander, a brave Newfoundland dog.


Youth will be expected to:

  • develop a basic understanding of the Canadian efforts in the Defence of Hong Kong;
  • develop an understanding of the story of Sergeant Gander, the canine mascot and his devotion to duty during the Battle of Hong Kong; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of those humans and their mascot friends who served and died.

Target Audience

This activity is suitable for ages 8 to 12.

Sequence of Events and Anticipated Time Frame [35 minutes]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Introduction discussion [10 minutes]
  • “Mascot dog sacrificed life for human comrades” handout and Viewing a Painting [10 minutes]
  • Honouring Sergeant Gander Medals [15 minutes]
  • World Map Showing Canada and Hong Kong


Introductory Discussion [10 minutes]

Before starting this activity, you may wish to read the Canada Remembers the Defence of Hong Kong historical sheet.

Have a brief discussion with your students about what makes a person a friend. Discuss sharing, playing together, helping, etc. Then shift the conversation to what they think a whole country could do to be a friend.

Provide the youth with a bit of an understanding about the Second World War. Talk about how the war began, well before their parents and even some grandparents were born! Look at a world map and locate Hong Kong in Asia. See if they can spot their own province or territory on the world map, and then see if they can find Hong Kong. Discuss how far away from each other these places are.

Mention that the Second World War started when some countries were “bullying” some other countries. In places like Hong Kong, people and families lost their homes, and many people were cold and hungry. Canada decided to help make this bullying stop, and they sent thousands of soldiers to help.

Some of these brave people were fathers or young sons. It was probably hard for them to leave their families in Canada and go so far away to risk their lives. What would their families be feeling? What would the young men be feeling? Does any child in the class have a parent who has to travel far away for work? If so, how did it make them feel? Or how do you think it would make you feel?

The Canadian soldiers fought in many difficult battles in the Second World War, and one of them was the Defence of Hong Kong.  Sometimes animal mascots travelled with the soldiers such as dogs, cats, and even bears served as mascots. It was comforting to have a furry friend in times of war because it can remind of your home far away.

Read Aloud and Viewing a Painting [10 minutes]

Share with your students or read aloud, the handout ”Mascot dog sacrificed life for human comrades” to help students understand how Canadians served in the Defence of Hong Kong, and how Sergeant Gander bravely saved soldiers lives. He was awarded the Dickin Medal for his bravery.

Talk to your students about how some soldiers lost their lives in Hong Kong.  Ask them to think how the families back at home would have felt in Canada having lost a father or son.  Ask them what are their thoughts about what Gander did? Discuss Gander’s bravery and loyalty to his soldier friends. 

Look at the painting of Sergeant Gander. Discuss with your students how the giant dog must have made the soldiers feel. Look at the painting closely, you can see he is wearing a dog tag with his name Gander engraved on it.

Honouring Gander Medal Activity [15 minutes]

Discuss with your students how Gander is wearing a dog tag with his name on it.  Tell them soldiers actually wear necklaces that are also called “dog tags”.  The soldier’s dog tags also have their name on it. Soldiers in service wore those, so that if they died, the authorities would be able to easily identify them.

Gander was awarded the Dickin medal for his bravery.  Why not make medals that each student can wear around their neck to honour and remember Gander’s sacrifice.  They can colour in the medal and write Gander’s name on the reverse side.

By remembering Sergeant Gander, we remember what he did during the Second World War. We also remember the soldier friends that he served with. And, by extension, we remember other animals who played a role during wars and conflicts.

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