Exeter Civic Society

Exeter Civic Society

Mary the Pigeon Commemorated

On 20th January 2018 a good crowd gathered in West Street to see the unveiling of a blue plaque commemorating Mary the Second World War carrier pigeon and her trainer, Cecil “Charlie” Brewer.

Present were descendants of Charlie Brewer, Civic Society members, representatives of the PDSA, and members of a Heritage Lottery funded project for young people run by the Double Elephant Print Workshop in Exeter. Sir Michael Morpurgo led the countdown to the unveiling, which was carried out with panache by members of the Double Elephant project.

The event continued at the Picturehouse Cinema, with refreshments and an exhibition about Mary and Charlie Brewer which included Mary’s Dickin medal and Charlie’s special constable uniform. Along with the speeches, Sir Michael Morpurgo gave a reading of his pigeon story “All I Said Was”.

Cecil ‘Charlie’ Brewer of 6 West Street, Exeter, and his prized homing pigeon Mary of Exeter were part of the National Pigeon Service in the 1940s. Mary was dropped behind enemy lines and repeatedly attacked by gunfire and once badly injured by a hawk as she carried top-secret messages back to her loft in West Street.

Wounded three times in all and on one occasion missing for ten days, Mary was nursed back to action by her owner who used his skills as a craftsman bootmaker to stitch up her wounds. He also made her a small leather neck support because of her injuries. At the end of the war Mary was awarded the Dickin Medal for gallantry, the highest animal award for bravery.

Mr Brewer was born in Church Lane, St Thomas, in 1895. Named Cecil, he preferred to be known as Charlie. He was apprenticed as a bootmaker at the age of 15 with the firm of J Roberts and Sons in Paris Street, Exeter. In 1922, the year of his marriage, he and his wife Ena moved to 6 (then 58) West Street where Charlie set up his workshop and bred and trained homing pigeons. He was made a Special Constable in 1941 with responsibility for general control of war pigeons in the area and decorated in 1945 for war services.

Mary of Exeter died in 1950 and is buried with other animal heroes in the PDSA Pet Cemetery in Ilford, Essex. She is commemorated in Northernhay Gardens, Exeter, as well as in the mosaic under the Exeter St Thomas railway bridge and on the animals war memorial in Hyde Park.

Charlie Brewer died in 1985, aged 90.