Warrior Birds Memorial in Worthing

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Warrior Birds Memorial in Worthing.
Warrior Birds Memorial in Worthing

The Warrior Birds Memorial in Beach House Park in Worthing

In the south coast seaside resort of Worthing in West Sussex, stands the Warrior Birds Memorial dedicated to the war pigeons, birds used during World War II to transport messages and explosives. The memorial is located in the centre of Beach House Park and claimed to be the only such memorial in the UK.

Actress Nancy Price and members of the People’s Theatre in London promoted and commissioned the memorial. Leslie Sharp, a local sculptor, began work on the memorial in 1949, and the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton unveiled it on 27th July 1951.

Originally the memorial was surrounded by streams and pools of water. The boulders were quarried in the Forest of Dean. Sharp’s original work additionally had two stone pigeons, which disappeared a long time ago due to theft. [1]

Note: The images above are of low resolution. You can view more information, including a detailed history of the memorial and download high resolution creative commons images at the Public Sculptures of Sussex website.

Inscriptions on the stones

Left stone: IN MEMORY OF WARRIOR BIRDS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES ON ACTIVE SERVICE 1939 – 45 AND FOR THE USE AND PLEASURE OF LIVING BIRDS.

Right stone: FOR A BIRD OF THE AIR SHALL CARRY THE VOICE AND THAT WHICH HATH WINGS SHALL TELL THE MATTER. Ecc.X.20. THIS MEMORIAL IS PRESENTED BY NANCY PRICE PRICE AND MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE’S THEATRE, LONDON.

Historical note: While the Warrior Birds Memorial in Worthing specifically pays tribute to military messenger pigeons used during World War II, homing pigeons had been extensively used as messengers during World War I and in previous military campaigns. [2]

Information board at the memorial

Warrior Birds Memorial information board
Warrior Birds Memorial information board
The memorial viewed from a distance
The memorial viewed from a distance.

Note: The memorial is now fenced off, and it is not possible to access the stones.

The National Pigeon Service in the UK

In 1939 Major William Osman successfully lobbied the Committee of Imperial Defence and the British Government for the establishment of a volunteer UK-wide civilian pigeon organisation. In March 1939, the Cabinet Secretary agreed to establish the National Pigeon Service (NPS). [3]

View a YouTube video of an RAF pigeon messenger training exercise in 1939

PDSA Dickin Medal*

*PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals)

The PDSA Dickin Medal is the highest honour bestowed upon any animal serving in a military conflict. It is known as the Victoria Cross of animals throughout the world. It was established in 1943 by PDSA founder Maria Dickin CBE to recognise remarkable acts of bravery or commitment to duty by animals serving with the Armed Forces or Civil Defence groups in any theatre of war across the world. [4]

William of Orange received the Dicken Medal
William of Orange

William of Orange received the medal while operating with the APS (Army Pigeon Service) in September 1944 for delivering a message from the Arnheim Airborne Operation in the fastest time ever for any pigeon. [4]

The PDSA Dickin Medal
The PDSA Dickin Medal

William of Orange and PDSA Dickin Medal images: Public Domain.

Since 1943, the medal has been awarded 73 times, including one Honorary PDSA Dickin Medal in 2014. There are a total of 36 dogs, 32 birds, four horses, and one cat who have received the award. [4]

References

1. James Henry & Colin Walton. (2016) Secret Worthing. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445651408. Chapter entitled: Birds of a Feather. https://www.amberley-books.com/secret-worthing.html

2. Wilson Ornithological Club. (1927) The Wilson Bulletin. The University of New Mexico. https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/wilson/v039n02/p0067-p0074.pdf

3. Bernard O’Connor. (2019)The BBC & The Pigeon Spies. Pages 23 & 24. Lulu.com. ISBN-10: 0244690545. ISBN-13: 978-0244690540.

4. PDSA. PDSA Dickin Medal. https://www.pdsa.org.uk/what-we-do/animal-awards-programme/pdsa-dickin-medal

Please note that the words on this page and some images are © South Coast View.

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