Destruction of Paddy the pigeon plaque 'senseless'

Marble plaque smashed on pavement
The memorial plaque was vandalised at the weekend [WartimeNI]

A plaque paying tribute to one of Northern Ireland's smallest World War II heroes has been destroyed in County Antrim.

The plaque had been erected in Carnlough, where Paddy was hatched and raised as a homing pigeon.

Paddy the pigeon was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal on 1 September, 1944, which is given for gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict and is often known as “the animal’s Victoria Cross”.

He managed to fly back to base with coded information on the Allied advance from Normandy, 230 miles in four hours and 50 minutes, which became the fastest record by message-carrier pigeon during the Normandy landings.

Patricia McConnell, chairperson of the Carnlough Community Association Group, says people in the village are “very annoyed”.

Patricia McConnell
Patricia McConnell believes a commemoration event may have prompted the vandalism [BBC]

“It is a feature in Carnlough and we are so proud of Paddy the pigeon," she added.

Patricia believes the “senseless vandalism” may have been triggered by a recent ceremony held in the village to honour the bird.

“We had a ceremony here on Thursday to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Paddy the Pigeon and we had a wreath laid at the memorial.

"But that night the wreath went missing and it was found in the harbour.

"So someone had taken it off and thrown it in the water.

"Then on the Saturday night the plaque was broken”.

Paddy joined thousands of other racing birds who were trained and drafted to RAF Hurn in Hampshire for military service.

Impressing military brass with his flying in the Air-Sea rescue units he was seconded to the United States First Army for undercover missions during the Normandy Landings of June 1944.

Patricia said talks had been held in schools explaining Paddy's story.

"Everyone enjoyed having the plaque there," she added,

“We have had a lot of support since people found out what happened from the village and further afield.

“We can’t fix the one we have – it’s smashed too much but we will do our best to get it replaced."

Charlie McAuley from Carnlough said he was shocked at what had happened.

“I couldn’t believe anyone would do something like that," he said.

"Paddy the pigeon is a story we’ve been told about since I was a child.

"Why would anyone do that?”

He does not think the incident was motivated by sectarianism.

“I’m quite sure it’s not sectarianism," he added.

"It’s certainly stupid and it’s vandalism.

"What was in the minds of whoever did it I’ve no idea."

As radio signals could compromise operations, carrier pigeons were used to ferry important messages back to Britain, with Paddy bringing back vital information about the Allies’ progress.

Sarah from Seattle and Rhonda from Montreal
Sarah from Seattle and Rhonda from Montreal gave their reaction, as they visited Carnlough on Monday [BBC]

Paddy the pigeon’s plaque was a tourist attraction.

As busloads of tourists stopped in Carnlough on Monday, there was surprise that the tribute was not in place.

Sarah from Seattle in the US and Rhonda from Montreal in Canada visited Carnlough as part of their bus tour of the North Coast.

Sarah was disappointed not to see the plaque to the plucky pigeon.

“We just heard on our tour bus that there was a plaque to this messenger pigeon who was the fastest flying pigeon and that it was either blown down by the wind or maybe it was a nefarious case of vandalism," she said.

"It's a pity because I would like to see something about Paddy the pigeon.

"Find out what all the fuss is about”.

Police are investigating the incident and have appealed for information.