The special pigeon that delivered top secret messages during the Second World War was bestowed a mark of recognition usually reserved for people and places that have significantly shaped Britain’s history.

Last week, Mary the pigeon became the first animal to be given an English Heritage blue plaque to commemorate where she lived.

The prized pigeon lived in West Street in Exeter, Devon, where the blue plaque was placed on Saturday.

Mary was dropped behind enemy lines where she was repeatedly attacked by gunfire.

She then delivered secret messages across the English Channel to her home.

Her time with the National Pigeon Service saw Mary awarded the Dickin Medal in 1945 — an honour bestowed on hard-working animals during war time.

Mary escaped her loft in Exeter uninjured despite being bombed on three occasions.

The tenacious pigeon was attacked by German hawks stationed in Pas-de-Calais but escaped — returning home with wounds to her neck and right breast.

She recovered and was put back in service two months later.

Mary returned with the tip of one wing shot off and three pellets were removed from her body on a second flight — but recovered and returned to service.

During her final trip, her neck muscles were damaged by shrapnel.

Mary’s owner, pigeon breeder Cecil “Charlie” Brewer, made her a leather collar and took her out of service.

Exeter Civic Society unveiled the blue plaque at at Brewer’s home and shoemaker shop of 63 years.

It is the civic society’s first blue plaque to commemorate a heroic animal and its owner.

In 1922, the year of his marriage, Brewer and his wife Ena moved to the road and set up a workshop to breed and train homing pigeons.

He was made a special constable in 1941 with responsibility for general control of war pigeons in the area and decorated in 1945 for war services.

Mary of Exeter died in 1950 and is buried with other animal heroes in the PDSA Pet Cemetery in Ilford, Essex.

She is commemorated in Northernhay Gardens, Exeter, as well as in the mosaic under the Exeter St Thomas railway bridge and on the animals war memorial in Hyde Park.

Charlie Brewer died in 1985, aged 90.

To be awarded an official English Heritage plaque, the proposed recipient must have died at least 20 years ago.

This is to help ensure that the decision about whether or not to shortlist a candidate is made with a sufficient degree of hindsight.

According to English Heritage, plaques are as much about the buildings in which people — and animals — lived and worked as about the subjects being commemorated.


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