Northern Ireland

Wartime hero pigeon Paddy honoured with fly-past

Black and white photograph of a pigeon
Image caption Paddy was born and raised in Carnlough

One of Northern Ireland's smallest World War II heroes has been honoured.

Paddy, a messenger pigeon who served with the RAF during the Normandy operations in June 1944, was remembered in his home town of Larne on Friday.

PDSA, Britain's biggest veterinary charity, awarded Paddy the Dickin Medal, dubbed the animals' "Victoria Cross", 65 years ago this month.

He received it for being the fastest pigeon to reach England with a coded message from the battle-front beaches of Normandy.

The brave bird brought back vital information about the Allies' progress, flying 230 miles in four hours 50 minutes - the fastest time of any of the messenger pigeons involved in the mission with an average speed of 56mph.

PDSA spokesman James Puxty said: "Paddy's contribution to the D-Day operations was a credit to the thousands of messenger pigeons donated by the racing pigeon fraternity for service during World War II.

"He was one of 32 brave, feathered heroes that received the PDSA Dickin Medal for their life-saving flights during the war, and the only recipient from Northern Ireland."

Local hero

Paddy was born and raised in Carnlough and joined thousands of other racing birds who were trained and drafted to RAF Hurn in Hampshire for military service.

Impressing military brass with his flying in the Air-Sea rescue units he was seconded to the United States First Army for undercover missions during the Normandy Landings.

In the face of poor weather conditions and the threat of German falcons, deployed to intercept Paddy and his comrades, he delivered his message to his home loft at RAF Hurn.

After the war Paddy returned to Carnlough and lived out his days with his owner Captain Andrew Hughes, until his death in 1954.

A memorial to the winged hero was erected in Carnlough harbour.

Image caption The Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943

A feathered fly-past of pigeons formed part of the Paddy Memorial Day event held at Larne Museum and Arts Centre.

Larne Borough Council and the town's historical society were joined by guests from PDSA and the owner of Paddy's PDSA Dickin Medal, former Irish Army officer Kevin Spring.

Younger guests were entertained by Gail Seekamp, the children's author, who read from her book "Paddy the Pigeon".

The Dickin Medal was introduced in 1943 by Maria Dickin, PDSA's founder. She wanted to recognise the gallantry and devotion to duty of animals serving with the Armed Forces and Civil Defence units during WWII.

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