The Antiques Roadshow is no stranger to war memorabilia. Recently, one particular item caught presenter Fiona Bruce's attention however.

It was a WWII medal from her grandfather's belongings, but not one which had been won by him personally, rather by his good friend Hughie - a pigeon.

In fact, whilst everyone knows that the RAF have plenty of medals, it might surprise many along with Bruce how many have received medals for flying under their own propulsion. The Dickin medal, which it is likely this is, is the most prestigious award for animal gallantry. It has been awarded 61 times, and over half of these times have been to carrier pigeons.

The medal is a large, circular and bronze, (too heavy to fly with), carried on a striped ribbon. It is sometimes described as the animal equivalent to the Victoria Cross, though unlike the VC's other equivalent, the George Cross, the question of which is to be worn higher never arises.

Many people may not think the Dickin medal is in quite the same category as other war medals, preferring to keep their collections species-specific. Nevertheless, they remain fascinating pieces of memorabilia, and some of the same rules about their desirability apply.

Perhaps the most sought after example of the Dickin is that awarded in 1949 to a survivor of the Yangtze incident on HMS Amethyst, known as Simon. He kept up crew morale with good character, and ensured the ship's rat problem was minimised despite being seriously injured in a shell blast.

The desirability of this medal is due to rarity - Simon being the only winner to be a cat. 


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