Exeter war hero pigeon Mary to get blue plaque

Mary and Charlie

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Rob Hooper

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Mary delivered messages to the pigeon loft of her owner Cecil “Charlie” Brewer in Exeter

A carrier pigeon that successfully collected top secret messages from France during World War Two is getting a blue plaque.

Mary was part of the National Pigeon Service and was seriously injured three times by enemy falcons and gunfire.

She would deliver messages to the pigeon loft of her owner Cecil “Charlie” Brewer, which was behind his boot-making workshop in Exeter, Devon.

Mary was awarded the Dickin medal, the highest award for animal bravery.

The blue plaque from the Exeter Civic Society is its first to honour a partnership between an animal and its owner.

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Mary is buried at the Ilford pet cemetery in London, along with 12 other Dickin medal recipients

It will be sited at the former home of Mr Brewer on West Street in the city.

Mr Brewer trained homing pigeons and in 1940 placed his prized bird, Mary, at the disposal of the service.

Mary was dropped behind enemy lines and despite being wounded three times and once going missing for 10 days, she always completed her missions.

Upon her return, Mr Brewer would then nurse her back to health and at the end of the war they both received medals.

Mary won the Dickin Medal for her gallantry and outstanding endurance and Mr Brewer was decorated for his war services as Special Constable with responsibility for control of war pigeons in the area.

  • 1943 medal introduced by the founder of the PDSA, Maria Dickin CBE.

  • 2014 the only Honorary Dickin Medal was awarded to War Horse Warrior to honour all the animals that served in the First World War.

  • 33 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses and 1 cat have been recipients.


John Monks, Exeter Civic Society’s blue plaque coordinator, said: “It’s a remarkable story of dedication to duty worthy of a blue plaque but it is also a record of the roles humans have required animals to play in bad times.”

Mr Brewer raised money for charity by giving talks about Mary for many years before he died in 1985 aged 90.

The story of Charlie and Mary is also being turned into an animated film and is due to be completed next year.

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