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War rescue dog among Hall of Heroes

A Second World War rescue dog credited with saving more than 100 lives is among a new "Hall of Heroes" celebrating heroic figures from spanning centuries of history.

Rip the rescue dog, who searched for people buried in the rubble after bombing raids during the Blitz, is just one character included in the new collection aimed at celebrating everyone from unsung underdogs to wartime heroes.

Family history website Findmypast wants people to share their own heroic family figures to help create the "Hall of Heroes" reflecting figures from throughout history, with the site donating £10 to the British Red Cross for every real-life story published.

To mark the launch of its campaign, the site is releasing four new sets of records to help people find out more about their own family heroes - Victoria Cross (VC) Recipients 1854-2006; the Royal Navy 1914 Star Medal Roll 1914-1920; the Marriage Registers of the British Royal Marines 1813-1920; and the Falklands War British Deaths 1982.

The VC collection includes the 1,349 people awarded the highest military honour for valour, given to heroes from conflicts including the Crimean War, the Boer War and both world wars.

Rip, who was originally found in Poplar, London, in 1940 by an air raid warden, was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery in 1945, and died in 1946 after a courageous life.

The Hall of Heroes will also include Dorothea Crewdson, one of 38,000 Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses who went overseas to care for injured servicemen during the First World War.

Sister Crewdson, whose records can be found in Findmypast, was stationed at the commonwealth reinforcement camps in Etaples, when German bombers targeted the area. Despite being injured, she refused treatment and continued helping others and was awarded the Military Medal for her courage.

Alongside other unsung heroes, the collection will remember some of the well-decorated figures from the First World War, such as Captain Noel Godfrey Chavasse, one of three people ever to have won the Victoria Cross twice, and the only person to be awarded both the Victoria Cross and bar during the First World War.

He won his first VC for his actions at the battle of Guillemont, part of the Battle of the Somme, where he saved the lives of 20 badly wounded men in total, and his second was for " most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in action" in 1917. Though desperately wounded while carrying another man, he insisted on remaining in action for a further two days and helped save the lives of many men.

Another decorated hero included in the 'Hall of Heroes' from today is "father of plastic surgery" Sir Harold Gillies, who earned his nickname because of his pioneering work in facial repairs and reconstructive medical advances during the First World War.

Over the course of the Great War, he and his colleagues performed more than 11,000 operations on more than 5,000 men at the then Queen's Hospital in south-east London.

Sir Harold was knighted in June 1930 for his services during the war and during the Second World War he acted as a consultant to the Ministry of Health, co-ordinating plastic surgery units across Great Britain.

Holly Thomas, historian and writer at Findmypast, said: "It's great to be able to celebrate the bravery and courage of figures in our history.

"The 'Hall of Heroes' allows the lives of well-documented famous figures to be recognised alongside the bravery of the everyman, including maids, miners and even rescue dogs.

"These people, drawn from all walks of life, and from all over the world, played an incredibly important part in shaping our history.

"We're especially excited about reading the stories of the heroes that people will be submitting from their own families over the coming weeks and can't wait to make these unknown stories available for everyone to read in one place for the very first time."

For more information or to submit a story, people should visit heroes.findmypast.co.uk

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