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WW1 pigeon militaria on auction

Kentonline reports that an auction of militaria will take place at Canterbury Auction Galleries on Wednesday 6th August.

It says: “Of particular local importance is a rare group of objects from the Great War, which recall the vital mercy flights carried out by birds of the Government Pigeon Service, resulting in downed airmen being rescued. These comprise a small collection of original messages carried by the homing pigeons together with four specialised message capsules intended to be fastened to the bird’s leg.

There is also an unused message pad book together with a group of related photographs and ephemera belonging to Francis Luke Brown of the Royal Navy. Among the messages is one sent in 1918 to CO Yarmouth that reads ‘Have landed with engine trouble. Admiralty trawler about to take us in tow’. Another reads ‘Down engine trouble 4 miles E of St Nicholas’. Others are in code.

The collection is being sold by Mr Brown’s granddaughter, Susan Laker, who lives in Chartham. She said her grandfather was a keen pigeon fancier who raced the birds as a hobby. She recalled being told that one of his birds was called Lucky Pilot because it had carried messages from a total of seven downed pilots, all of whom had been rescued.

He owned and ran a butcher’s shop in Ashford after the war and had also been the landlord of what is now the Tickled Trout public house in Wye. On his death in 1973 the collection had passed to her father, William, who had a butcher’s shop in Ramsgate and later Farnham, before the family moved to Chartham in 1977. He died in 2006, since when it has been kept in a safe.”

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