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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Pigeon's war medal up for auction
The Dickin Medal
The Dickin Medal is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross
A bravery medal awarded to a pigeon for flying over enemy territory carrying vital information during World War II is to be auctioned.

The bird, called Commando, was bred in Haywards Heath, Sussex, and carried out 90 trips in German-occupied France.

It brought back messages to the UK in metal canisters strapped to its legs.

Commando was given the Dickin Medal for animal bravery in 1945 - one of only 54 to be given out. It is to be auctioned at Spink in London on 4 November.

The thing I remember is the noise of the pigeons and probably also the smell of the pigeons
Valerie Thoebold

Commando was bred by pigeon fancier Sid Moon in a loft in the West Sussex town.

Mr Moon served with the Army Pigeon Service in World War I and made his pigeons available to the war effort in 1939.

Fewer than one in eight of the birds sent on the missions returned home.

They often fell victim to German marksmen, birds of prey, bad weather or exhaustion.

A picture of Commando
Fewer than one in eight of the pigeons survived the missions

But Commando survived the trips and was awarded the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.

The medal is being auctioned by Mr Moon's granddaughter Valerie Theobold and is expected to fetch between 5,000 and 7,000.

She said: "The thing I remember is the noise of the pigeons and probably also the smell of the pigeons.

"But it is quite interesting to think that all those pigeons carrying all those messages through the war were coming from the loft."

Another of Mr Moon's relatives, John Theobold, said: "It was terribly hard for the agents or for the people who were occupied trying to get message out by radio because if they were caught they were shot.

"So pigeons were one way of getting information back that was crucial."

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