Paddy the pigeon decorated for bravery in fight against Hitler
Published 16/09/2009 | 06:00
A war hero decorated for his bravery in the fight against Hitler is finally being honoured by his home town 55 years after his death.
Paddy the pigeon was the first bird make it back to England with vital news from the D-Day Normandy landings in June 1944.
His exploits of daring-do, avoiding deadly German falcons released to catch the airborne messengers, and making it back across the Channel, earned Paddy the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
The citation on his medal said: "For the best recorded time with a message from the Normandy Operations, while serving with the RAF in June, 1944."
Paddy was one of thousands of pigeons taken to France as part of the D-Day landings. He was one of 30 seconded to 1st US Army and at 8.15am on June 12 he was released carrying coded information on the Allied advance.
He made it back to his loft 230 miles away in Hampshire in four hours 50 minutes - the fastest time of any courier pigeon released during the Normandy landings.
After the war the heroic bird returned to its home at Carnlough on Northern Ireland's Co Antrim with owner Captain Andrew Hughes where he lived on until dying in 1954 at the ripe old age of 11.
He was immortalised in an illustrated children's book Paddy the Pigeon by Gail Seekamp in 2003 - now finally his home town is going to recognise him.
A plaque is being unveiled on the harbour wall in Carnlough on Saturday by the well-known veteran pigeon breeder John McMullan who trained Paddy and was a friend of Captain Hughes.
Mr McMullan, who still lives in Carnlough, said today: "I agree with this wholeheartedly. Paddy was the only pigeon from Ireland to win the Dickin Medal.
"It is only right the plaque is put up, it is just a pity they didn't do it earlier."
He revealed that during his military training Paddy was based at Ballykinlar Army camp in Co Down, and was taken out in the Irish Sea by submarine and set free to find his way back to base.
When the bird was moved to the south coast of England ready for his war time exploits it took Paddy just three weeks to learn where his new base loft was.
"Paddy was the last pigeon to be let go by the Americans in Normandy and he was the first one home.
"He was the best of the lot, the best of thousands," said Mr McMullan.