Navy warship rescues lost pigeon
Published 26/07/2013 | 13:17
A racing pigeon which got lost at sea is to be reunited with her owner after she was saved 300 miles out in the Atlantic by the crew of a Royal Navy frigate.
The exhausted bird was wrongly named Paul by crew members when she landed on the deck of HMS Somerset a week ago.
Since then she has been fed and watered and received much attention from the 185 men and women on board.
Leading Seaman William Hughes, an ex-pigeon fancier, caught the bird, checked it over and discovered that it was in fact female.
He said: "It was a stroke of luck that Paul found Somerset. She will certainly have a few sea stories to tell her fellow pigeons."
Lieutenant Mark Gilbert, the ship's flight commander, said: "The Royal Navy is used to saving life at sea and providing assistance to those in need. Caring for a lost pigeon seems like a natural extension to our versatile capability."
The bird's ID ring allowed the crew to track down owner Gil Hartshorn, 75, from Redcar, Cleveland, who said she had been released for a cross-Channel race from France.
Mr Hartshorn, a retired welder, will be reunited with the pigeon next week when Leading Seaman Hughes goes on leave in the Midlands. Paul regained her strength by eating breakfast cereal and staying in a makeshift coop alongside a Merlin helicopter in the frigate's hangar.
Mr Hartshorn said: "I would like to say thank you to the crew of HMS Somerset for looking after my distressed pigeon, particularly the captain who agreed to have a lost soul on board until the ship returned alongside."
He said the bird will now be retired from racing, adding: "I'd be too worried she would land on the next Royal Navy warship and I'd never see her again - the Navy have done such a good job of looking after her."