Pigeons were war-time heroes

PUBLISHED: 14:55 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 08:52 10 June 2010

I would like to respond to a letter from Harry Corondis which was published in the Journal on February 14 and headed Some people s disgusting habits.

would like to respond to a letter from Harry Corondis which was published in the Journal on February 14 and headed "Some people's disgusting habits". I would like to add to what Harry states with regard to the instructions we are given these days to not feed the pigeons.

I believe it is really quite a sad shame that we have to treat these birds like this - for, in times of war, they were our heroes and just as gallant in action as was any soldier fighting the enemy on the frontline at the time.

Maria Dickin, the founder of the Peoples' Dispensary for Sick Animals, realised just how birds and animals were playing their gallant part serving alongside those on active service. As a direct result, the Dickin Medal came into being. This medal for animals was equivalent to the Victoria Cross.

Between the years 1943 and 1949, the Dickin Medal was awarded a total of 54 times, this being to: 18 dogs, three horses, one cat and finally, wait for it, 32 pigeons.

To state but only a few true stories, may I introduce to you Winkie, a pigeon, which during 1943 flew from a crashed bomber aircraft a distance of 120 miles to deliver an SOS.

In 1944, Paddy, while in action as a messenger pigeon, made the fastest flight by crossing the English Channel in just four hours and five minutes to deliver messages from Normandy in preparation for D-Day.

In 1946, GI Joe who, in delivering messages, contributed his bravery by saving many people's lives, too.

There are warning signs around the town instructing: "Do not feed the pigeons or gulls."

I, however, much prefer the words of Mary Poppins: "Feed the birds, tuppence a bag."

Of all the years I have fed pigeons and seagulls, it was only recently that I realised, for the very first time, that, due to bad eyesight, I had in fact all this time been throwing bread to helicopters by mistake. Well, that's my excuse officer.

Roy Richardson,

4 Greenhill Avenue,

Exmouth.

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