A World War Two medal awarded to a pigeon in honour of her brave and tireless service to the RAF is to go up for auction today.
Homing pigeon Princess was given the PDSA Dickin Medal - the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross, and it is now expected to fetch up to £20,000
The medal is being auctioned by the family of the trainer, and is lot 3854 at Holloways Auction House.
Princess was awarded the honour after she returned safely to her loft at RAF Alexandria after travelling 500 miles to deliver vital information.
Her feat goes down in pigeon history as one of the finest performances in the war record of the Pigeon service.
Sadly, Princess died before she could be awarded the medal so the accolade was presented to a fellow RAF pigeon at a glittering ceremony in May 1946.
PDSA Dickin Medals were awarded to more than 60 animals following World War Two, including 32 pigeons.
Auctioneer Russell Beard said:
“The medal was awarded posthumously to Princess for carrying an important message from Crete to Alexandria while serving with the RAF in 1943.
“The medal is one of only very few ever presented during World War Two. The recipient was called Princess and she was a carrier pigeon.
“Further investigation revealed that Princess bravely flew messages across the Mediterranean Sea from Crete to Alexandria giving details of German atrocities as they ransacked villages across the island.
“The medal, effectively the VC for animals, is very rare and a collector’s dream.”
PDSA Animals in War have also listed her mission on their hall of fame as being one of the greatest achievements by a single bird.
The medal was discovered at a recent open valuation day at Milletts Farm near Abingdon.
Mr Beard added: “Tragically, Princess died before being presented with her medal after contracting a disease shortly after the war.
“A stand-in was used in the medal ceremony.”
During both World Wars, carrier pigeons were often used as military messengers because of their homing ability, speed and altitude
When they landed at their locations wires in the coop would sound a bell or buzzer and a soldier of the Signal Corps would know a message had arrived.
He would remove the message from the canister and send it to its destination by telegraph, field phone or personal messenger.
Enemy soldiers often tried to shoot pigeons, knowing that the birds were carrying messages.