Wednesday, 12 October 2011

the real Valiants

We watched the movie, Valiant, yesterday (on DVD). It's the story of Valiant, the small pigeon with the big heart, who joins up (to the National Homing Pigeon Service) in WWII to do his duty for home and country. Before they have even finished their training, his rag-bag unit is called up for service in enemy territory. Despite all odds, they eventually make it home with the very important message.

Despite its fictional nature, and all the personification, I began wondering whether homing pigeons were actually used in the war. A few clicks later, we discovered the answer is yes! The National Pigeon Service was a vital unit during WWII and pigeons had been used in other wars. Furthermore, 32 have been awarded the Dickin Medal (the animal's Victoria Cross) for acts of duty or courage during war.

Here are some we thought particularly interesting:

Mary of Exeter
Royal Blue
William of Orange

Only about one in eight pigeons would make it home. German falcons were a real threat and patrolled the French coast.

This is probably old news for all of you; we're a little behind in our movie watching (not to mention our knowledge of the past); but we were fascinated.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. There was a BBC doco about this very thing recently. I cannot remember the name. I might do this film with Year 7 and we can them look at the doco Of course pigeon services were a safe way of contacting the Resistance fighters; radio was far too ricky. I remember reading about the Dicken medal as a child; there have been some fascinating recipients.
I think a dog was awarded it recently in Afghanistan

It is interesting that the Britishhave a dog regiment in Afghanistan. THe 1st Military Working Dog Regiment
Follow this link

Rachael said...

Thanks for your comment, "Anonymous". Yes a dog in Afganistan was awarded a Dickin medal recently. It was a Labrodor named Treo who found an improvised explosive device.

All the medal awardees are listed on that site. Awarding ceased after 1949 but was revived again in 2000.