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D-Day landings

D-Day landings: Many heroes included Paddy the pigeon 150 150 mhamer

D-Day landings: Many heroes included Paddy the pigeon

Next month (June) sees the celebrations for the D-Day landings.

Next month sees the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings – and Jimmy Cricket marks the occasion in his latest newspaper column.

The Normandy landings were the land and associated airborne operations which took place on 6 June 1944.

Codenamed Operation Neptune and widely referred to as D-Day, it involved the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II –  the largest seaborne invasion in history.

It commenced the liberation of France, and also the rest of Western Europe, and laid the foundations for the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Writing in the Blackpool Gazette and the Lancashire Evening Post, comedian Jimmy says: “As next month (June) sees the celebrations for the D-Day landings which took place 80 years ago, I always pause to think about the many entertainers who helped to boost the morale of our fighting troops.

Beautiful voice

My friend the late Frank Carson, who served in the forces himself, used to joke: ‘One day I saved the lives of 200 men – I shot the cook!’.

Then, of course, there was the Force’s Sweetheart the late great Vera Lynn.

[Vera Lynn’s songs helped raise morale duringWorld War Two. People knew her best for her wartime anthem We’ll Meet Again. She died aged 103 in 2020.

She was just a young girl vocalist back then and the only time she’d been out of the country was when she travelled to Holland to do a gig with a dance band.

However, she had a yearning to do her bit, and before she knew it, she was touring the swamps of the Borneo jungle in the sweltering heat, giving young soldiers a taste of home with her beautiful voice and melodic songs.

Feathered friend

A lot of the time she performed on the back of army trucks.

You know readers, this may sound funny but I always think of Vera’s pianist and accompanist Len Edwards, who always went with her and who risked life and limb to provide her musical backing.

He truly was an unsung hero.

Which leads me on to mention another hero from the Second World War, in this case a silent one.

His name was Paddy, and on the day of the D-day landings, he flew back all the way from Normandy in record time to provide valuable information that reassured everyone at home, that everything was going to plan and that our soldiers had made a successful landing.

The reason he did this without saying a word?

Paddy was a carrier pigeon and his coded message was tagged on to his foot.

Quiet thanks

But what made Paddy even more special was this…

… Of all the pigeon’s released from Normandy that day, he was the last one to make the journey and, guess what, he was the first one back to Hampshire.

But there’s more readers, come closer, what made his feat all the more remarkable was that not only did he have to contend with open-air fire, but the Nazis had placed specially trained hawks along the way to ambush him.

However, our feathered friend thwarted all their efforts and made it home safe and sound.

He did it in an astonishing four hours and 50 minutes, which became the fastest record by a message-carrier pigeon during the Normandy landings.

Paddy was honoured for his heroic achievements by being awarded the Dicken Medal on September the 1st, 1944.

The medal is given for gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict and is often known as the animal’s Victoria Cross.

He eventually returned to the place of his birth – Carnlough, County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, to be with his owner – Andrew Hughes.

He lived until 1954, dying at the age of 11.

In 2019 a plaque was unveiled in his honour in Car lough harbour.

So readers, if you ever cross the Irish Sea and take a trip along the Antrim coastline to drink in the beautiful scenery, make sure you stop off at Carnlough Harbour and pay a visit to Paddy’s plaque and give a quiet thanks for a silent hero.”

Also read: LEP column paid tribute to the ‘wonderful’ Vera Lynn