Paddy the Pigeon was raised as a carrier pigeon by Andrew Hughes of Carnlough village in County Antrim. During World War II, thousands of trained messenger pigeons were enlisted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) to help military service personnel by carrying secret coded messages between the Allies from the war front back home to Britain.
Paddy the Pigeon was trained at the air force’s Hurn Base, where the officers became impressed with his abilities during Air-Sea rescue operations. Paddy was later used in service with the First U.S. Army during covert missions as part of the Normandy landings.
In an operation known as “U2,” Paddy was to carry coded information on the Allied advance in Normandy back to the British in Hampshire. Not only did Paddy have to avoid the anti-air fire, but German forces had also stationed specially trained hawks to take out carrier pigeons in the Calais region of France. But Paddy managed to fly all the way back to the base in Hampshire from Normandy in four hours and 50 minutes, which became the fastest record by message-carrier pigeon during the Normandy landings.
Paddy was awarded Dickin Medal on September 1, 1944, which is given for gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict and is often known as “the animal’s Victoria Cross.”
Paddy the Pigeon eventually returned to his home in Carnlough with Andrew Hughes. He lived until 1954, dying at the age of 11. In 2019, a plaque was unveiled to honor his memory in Carnlough.
Know Before You Go
Drive along the Coast Road from Larne Town until you reach the small harbor village of Carnlough. You can park alongside the road next to the old stone harbor. The plaque dedicated to Paddy the Pigeon is located at the old Carnlough Boathouse on the Harbor Pier.