The centrepiece of the formal flowerbeds in Worthing's Beach House Park is a memorial to the unsung heroes of the Second World War – the Warrior Birds of our National Pigeon Service. These brave carrier birds conveyed messages and made contact with allied agents throughout Europe during WWII. Most RAF bombers carried two pigeons and in an emergency the birds would fly home so that teams of rescuers could be alerted. Thousands of lives were saved by these tenacious creatures who often flew in extremely harsh skies. Secret armies of pigeons were regularly dropped behind enemy lines and used to relay messages from resistance members to 'Wing House' in London.
This unique memorial was commissioned and funded by theatre director, author, conservationist and celebrated actor Nancy Price in 1949 and opened to the public in 1951. Founder of The People's National Theatre, Price was a star of stage and screen and I was thrilled to discover that she played the role of 'Mrs Crozier' in Powell and Pressburger's 1945 masterpiece I Know Where I'm Going!. There are many local stories about Nancy Price and Valerie Martin is collecting them on her wonderful Findon Village website.
The Warrior Birds monument is a lovely peaceful place to visit and after years of neglect is now tended by Adur and Worthing Council. Unfortunately the rockery is gated and kept locked – perhaps unnecessarily as the park has a warden and is also closed from dusk until dawn. For the past two years a memorial service for the wartime carrier birds has been held in the Beach House Park in November. I hope this is a tradition that will continue and that the birds are remembered for many years to come.
If the plight of wartime pigeons has piqued your interest I recommend watching Richard Cane's documentary War Of The Birds - streamed here.