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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
Soldier rescues feather-brained recruit
Racing pigeon
British racing pigeons rarely fly beyong Europe
A County Durham soldier with British forces in the Gulf, has signed up a new recruit - a racing pigeon.

Shaun Huntington, from Peterlee, spotted the bird perching on tents at an Army encampment in southern Iraq.

The 23-year-old, whose grandfather races pigeons back home in the north-east of England, successfully captured the newest recruit to the was against Saddam.

It has a green metal ring around its leg - bearing the number 97.OWJan2319619 - and is believed to be British a racing pigeon which has gone badly off course.

The bird, now dubbed Unlucky, was released again, but is now a regular visitor at tents around the sprawling encampment.

Mr Huntington said: "He was looking a bit puzzled as we were all washing and shaving and getting up.

"I think he's lost, and he's probably scared by the sounds of gunfire and artillery.

'A bit homesick'

"He's in good condition, so someone's obviously been caring for him.

"My grandfather keeps racing pigeons so it's a bit of a reminder of home, so it has made me a bit homesick.

"If he sticks around we could always use him as a messenger pigeon to get mail back to our families."

The musician who usually plays with the Hussars and Light Dragoons Band in Dorset, is serving in Iraq with the 1 Close Support Medical Regiment.

He said most racing pigeons would not go further than competitions in Europe, but that it was possible Unlucky could have lost his way and followed thermals to Iraq.

He added: "We called him Unlucky because he's turned up in a war zone, but hopefully if some northerner sees this he will realise what's happened to his pigeon."

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