Hero pigeon buried in Ilford cemetery awarded historic blue plaque

Mary of Exeter was buried in Ilford

Mary of Exeter was buried in Ilford - Credit: Archant

A carrier pigeon that delivered secret messages during WW2 has become the first animal to be awarded a blue plaque.

Mary of Exeter was buried in Ilford (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Acabashi)

Mary of Exeter was buried in Ilford (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Acabashi) - Credit: Archant

The honour is typically reserved for people and places which have significantly shaped Britain’s history.

But on Saturday, Mary of Exeter, who was laid to rest in the PDSA Pet Cemetery in Ilford, and her owner, Cecil “Charlie” Brewer were commemorated.

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

It has been unveiled at the former home of Mr Brewer on West Street in the city.

Mary of Exeter was buried in Ilford (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Acabashi)

Mary of Exeter was buried in Ilford (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Acabashi) - Credit: Archant


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Mary was part of the National Pigeon Service in the 1940s and carried top secret military messages across the English Channel.

She would deliver the messages to Cecil’s pigeon loft, which was behind his bootmaker’s workshop in Exeter, Devon.

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Despite being shot at three times and once going missing for ten days, she always completed her mission

During her final trip, her neck muscles were damaged by shrapnel and Mr Brewer made her a leather collar and took her out of service.

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

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

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

Mr Brewer raised money for charity for many years after the war by giving talks about Mary and died aged 90 in 1985.

John Monks, the Civic Society’s blue plaque coordinator, said: “Mary was injured by enemy gunfire and nearly killed by a falcon on her missions but each time Charlie nursed her carefully back to strength.

“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.”

The story of Charlie and Mary is also being brought to life by an animated film being created by Exeter art organization, Double Elephant Print Workshop, and is set to be completed next year.

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