Paddy the pigeon: anger after Carnlough plaque marking bird's wartime efforts is destroyed - just days after Normandy 80 commemorations

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There has been widespread anger after a plaque in Carnlough marking a bird's wartime efforts was destroyed - just days after it was the focus of a commemoration event for the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

The memorial to ‘Paddy the Pigeon’ at Carnlough harbour was vandalised some time overnight between Saturday, June 8 and Sunday, June 9.

Commenting on the incident, a police spokesperson said: “The marble tile was torn from its mount at the Heritage Centre on Harbour Road and smashed.

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"Anyone who witnessed the damage being caused or who may have other information regarding this crime is asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference 481 09/06/24.”

The plaque commemorating Paddy the Pigeon in Carnlough was destroyed some time overnight between June 8-9.  Police have appealed for information.  Photo: Wartime NI/FacebookThe plaque commemorating Paddy the Pigeon in Carnlough was destroyed some time overnight between June 8-9.  Police have appealed for information.  Photo: Wartime NI/Facebook
The plaque commemorating Paddy the Pigeon in Carnlough was destroyed some time overnight between June 8-9. Police have appealed for information. Photo: Wartime NI/Facebook

‘Paddy the Pigeon’, who was born and trained in Carnlough and loaned to the RAF during the war, was the first pigeon to bring back a message to an RAF base in England following the D-Day landings.

Wartime NI, a digital platform hosting a range of articles related to WWII in Northern Ireland, shared Paddy’s story on https://wartimeni.com/

The brave pigeon’s journey back to the RAF base took place in a record 4 hours and 50 minutes, facing a host of dangers along the way. “As well as the usual aerial threats of wartime, a number of hawks in the hands of German units had the sole purpose of taking down Paddy and his comrades,” the website notes.

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“On September 1, 1944, Paddy received the Dickin Medal. Introduced in 1943 by Maria Dickin, the founder of the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, this award is the highest accolade afforded to animals in military service. It is often described as the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

'Paddy the Pigeon' was the focus of a commemoration event in Carnlough on Thursday, June 6, which included two primary schools and community representatives.  The plaque commemorating Paddy's efforts was later destroyed by vandals over the weekend.  Photo: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council'Paddy the Pigeon' was the focus of a commemoration event in Carnlough on Thursday, June 6, which included two primary schools and community representatives.  The plaque commemorating Paddy's efforts was later destroyed by vandals over the weekend.  Photo: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
'Paddy the Pigeon' was the focus of a commemoration event in Carnlough on Thursday, June 6, which included two primary schools and community representatives. The plaque commemorating Paddy's efforts was later destroyed by vandals over the weekend. Photo: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

"After the Second World War, Paddy returned to life in Carnlough where he died in 1954 at the age of 11 years old. To date, he remains the only recipient of the Dickin Medal from Northern Ireland.”

On June 6, only days before the memorial was destroyed, it was the focus of a commemoration event including the two primary schools in the village, along with community representatives.

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There has been widespread condemnation over the destruction of the plaque, which was installed at the harbour by Larne Historical Society in September 2009 to mark the 65th anniversary of the awarding of the Dickin Medal.

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Coast Road UUP councillor, Alderman Maureen Morrow said: “I am shocked and saddened that someone at this time, when commemorations are taking place to remember the bravery of all those who went into battle on June 6, 1944 at Normandy on D-Day to fight for the freedom we enjoy today, felt the need to destroy this plaque.

“The disrespect shown to the memory of this brave bird is despicable and I hope the coward(s), who destroyed this plaque in darkness, is caught and punished in an appropriate manner.”

Alliance Party East Antrim MLA, Danny Donnelly said he was “disgusted” that the plaque was destroyed. He added: “Smashing the memorial is despicable. If anyone has any information, please contact PSNI on 101.”

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