When pigeons flew and dogs parachuted …

Today we remember those heroic soldiers on D-Day who helped to liberate Europe from the Nazis 75 years ago.

But less well publicised were the pigeons that flew through bullets and bombs when crossing the Channel carrying critical messages to the Allied Forces.

One such pigeon was Duke of Normandy. When radio equipment failed, he flew 27 hours from Merville back to the base of Allied Command – carrying a tiny scroll attached to a ring on his leg. The message it carried was critical intelligence alerting them that the heavy artillery on Sword beach directed towards the planned invasion have been disabled. That saved the lives of many.

Duke of Normandy was recognised for it’s heroics and awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, for being the first bird to arrive with a message from the paratroopers of the 21st Army on D-Day.

While pigeons flew, dogs parachuted.

Dogs that have been trained to sniff out explosives were then parachuted into war zones. One such dog was Brian, an Alsatian, also known as Bing.

He was handed over to the 13th Lancashire Parachute Battalion when his family could no longer afford to feed him with their rations. He trained with them.

As D-Day landings began, Brian was parachuted into Ranville but he got stuck in a tree. His fellow paratrooper Sgt Ken Bailey rescued him despite being under fire. Together they fought for months. During his time of service, Brian completed seven parachutes.

He was awarded the Dickin Medal – “For excellent patrol work and qualifying as a paratrooper, Air Borne Division, Normandy, June 1944.

Dogs did not just help to sniff our explosives and bombs, they warned of enemies and raised the morale of the troops.

In London, a memorial stands in honour of these animals that served alongside British Commonwealth and Allied Forces in the many wars.

May’s comments: Today we say thank you to the veterans who crossed the sea to give us our freedom.

“The fate of the world depended on their success. Many them would never return, and the heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten.” – The Queen

Alongside them were animals through no choice of theirs to assist in the greatest invasion of all battles.


  1. Cheryl

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for posting this, we often forget that animals also serve! Where is this memorial? I would love to visit it with my grandchildren when we visit in 2 weeks.

  2. Linda

    Thank you for the wonderful and informative post.

  3. Cheryl Houlton

    Lovely tribute to our animals that helped with the fight, have shared this on facebook so more people can appreciate our wonderful animals. Cheryl and Susie x

  4. Diane Larowska

    Thank you for this wonderful post, I’m reading it through tears.

    Such hard won peace, we must remember all the the sacrifices for our freedom.

    “They had no choice” breaks my heart.

  5. Cheryl

    Thanks May!

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