Rare wartime medal for pigeon set for auction in Banbury

Holloway's of Banbury are selling a Dickin Medal and associated paperwork with photos, won by carrier pigeon, Princess, in WWII. Auctioneer, James Lees. NNL-171128-161942009
Holloway's of Banbury are selling a Dickin Medal and associated paperwork with photos, won by carrier pigeon, Princess, in WWII. Auctioneer, James Lees. NNL-171128-161942009

A Banbury auction house is waiting with bated breath to see how much a rare wartime medal sells for.

The award was made to a homing pigeon called Princess for her contribution to the allied effort in the Second World War.

Holloway's of Banbury are selling a Dickin Medal and associated paperwork with photos, won by carrier pigeon, Princess, in WWII. NNL-171128-162041009

Holloway's of Banbury are selling a Dickin Medal and associated paperwork with photos, won by carrier pigeon, Princess, in WWII. NNL-171128-162041009

Her effort was described as ‘one of the finest performances in the war record of the Pigeon Service’.

The Dickin Medal was taken to Holloways’ experts for valuation at a special event at a garden centre.

Auctioneer Russell Beard said: “The medal is one of only very few ever presented during World War Two. The recipient was called Princess and she was a carrier pigeon.

“Further investigation revealed that Princess bravely flew messages across the Mediterranean Sea from Crete to Alexandria giving details of German atrocities as they ransacked villages across the island.

“The medal, effectively the VC for animals, is very rare and a collector’s dream.”

Holloways has placed a guide price of £7-10,000 on the medal which will be sold with a certificate and picture of its presentation.

However because of the rarity of the item and its desirability among specialist collectors, some believe it could go for £20,000 or even higher.

Princess’s medal will go under the hammer at Holloway’s auction on Tuesday, December 12.

Her citation says: “Sent on special mission to Crete, this pigeon returned to her loft (RAF Alexandria) having travelled about 500 miles mostly over sea, with most valuable information. One of the finest performances in the war record of the Pigeon Service.”

The owner of Princess’s medal did not want any publicity but was suitably surprised and impressed at the valuation put on the medal.

Carrier pigeons were often used as military messengers because of their homing ability, speed and altitude.

Pigeons of the Racing Homer breed were used in World War One and World War Two and 32 such pigeons were presented with the Dickin Medal. The use of pigeons ended in 1957.

During the two world wars, carrier pigeons were used to transport messages back to their home coop behind the lines. When they landed, wires in the coop would sound a bell or buzzer and a soldier of the Signal Corps would know a message had arrived.

He would remove the message from the canister and send it to its destination by telegraph, field phone or personal messenger.

Enemy soldiers often tried to shoot pigeons, knowing birds were carrying messages, while killing, wounding or molesting carrier pigeons was punishable by up to six months’ in prison or a £100 fine.