Pigeon Fly-Past Marks Historic Dickin Medal Cemetery Restoration

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 11 December 2007
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a black and white photo of a pigeon

Mary of Exeter, recognised for five years of service carrying top secret messages during WWII. Photo © PDSA

A special ceremony and pigeon fly-past will take place on Thursday December 13 2007 to mark the restoration of an illustrious cemetery in East London that houses recipients of the PDSA Dickin Medal.

The PDSA's Ilford Animal Cemetery is the final resting place of a dozen recipients of the award medal, which is named after the charity's founder, Maria Dickin CBE, and recognised worldwide as the animals' Victoria Cross.

"Many lives were saved as a result of the courage and dedication to duty of the animals buried at Ilford," explained PDSA Director General, Marilyn Rydström. "Sadly, over the years, the animal graves at the cemetery had weathered and broken."

"So we decided to embark on the restoration project as a mark of respect for the PDSA Dickin Medal recipients and the 3,000 other military animals and family pets buried there."

The Animals’ War, a major exhibition which reveals the heroic and often surprising stories of animals in conflict from the First World War to the present day, runs at the Imperial War Museum North until January 6 2008.

a black and white photograph of a dog surrounded by soldiers

Rob the dog left behind his life on a farm in Ellesmere, Shropshire, to become a distinguished 'Para-dog'. Picture © PDSA

The PDSA Dickin medal has been bestowed 62 times and the animal recipients have saved thousands of lives during war and terrorist attack since its inception in 1943.

They include a dog who shielded his human comrades from a grenade blast, a pigeon who saved an Italian village from being bombed, a cat who kept sailors from starving despite being badly injured by shelling and three dogs honoured for their part in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Armed forces veterans who have served with some of the medal recipients will take part in a march-past, accompanied by colours representing some of the regiments of the animals.

There will also be a fly-past by pigeons to commemorate the particular contribution of the winged PDSA Dickin Medal recipients.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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