D-Day Pigeon Medal Sold at Auction for £8,000

DickinMedalA medal awarded to the first pigeon to take news of the D-Day landings in Normandy back to the War Office in the UK has sold at auction for £8,000.

The Dickin medal, awarded by the Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) to recognise their bravery during war time had been lost for 69 years before being discovered in a box earlier this year.

It was awarded to the Duke of Normandy, a racing pigeon that was dispatched at 6am on 06 June 1944 from behind enemy lines at the Merville Battery by paratroopers from the 21st Army Group.

The pigeon arrived on English soil 26 hours later after being shot at by Germany riflemen and enduring strong winds to deliver the precious message that they had captured the crucial bridges near the city of Caen.

He was one of a total of 32 pigeons awarded the medal, often referred to as the animals’ Victoria Cross, during the Second World War. The bird flew back to its owner’s loft who then contacted the War Office.

Dickin Medals awarded to pigeons are rare because there were only 32 awarded. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association owns five of the medals.

‘The Germans had special teams called Hawk units based along the coast which were snipers and their job was to try and shoot England bound pigeons out of the sky. All the pigeons were interested in was getting home but they regularly had to fly through shot and fire to do that.

They returned to their owners who then made contact with the military and passed on the coded messages,’ said a spokesman for the association.

The owner of the medal had no idea what it was until several Dickin Medals were featured on an episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. He dug it out and has made it available for sale.

‘As radio silence was of utmost importance during the paratrooper part of D Day, the role of racing pigeons became crucial. Many of them were kept in small cages and were dropped with the Allied paratroopers of the 21st Army Group but the Duke was the first to arrive back with news,’ said Steven Bosley, of Bosley’s auctioneers of Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

‘Once the paratroopers could ascertain the success of the operation, they released the pigeon at 6am with a message. In spite of bombs and bullets, northerly gales in the Channel and heavy rain, he returned to his loft in 26 hours and 50 minutes. The information he brought back was crucial to the War Office in London,’ he added.

The Duke of Normandy was part of the Allied Pigeon Service which had over 200,000 birds. Those that flew over Nazi occupied Europe were part of the Special Pigeon Service.

The citation for the Duke’s states: ‘For being the first bird to arrive with a message from paratroopers of the 21st Army Group behind enemy lines on D Day’.

Related Images:

About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as PropertyWire.com, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

%d bloggers like this: