Story of a hero

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AN unusual Motherwell war hero has been featured in a new book.

In October 1942 RAF aircraft Catalina crashed in bad weather off the north west Hebrides and with radio contact out nine men were left clinging helplessly to the sinking plane while another two were swept away in a life raft by the strong currents.

Their only hope was a white hen pigeon called White Vision, who had been bred by the Fleming Brothers in Motherwell, to fly to her loft in Shetland and raise the alarm.

The pigeon was released at 8.20am and after enduring 25 mph head winds and fog that cut visibility to 100 yard she arrived exhausted back ‘home’ and a rescue mission was launched.

The nine airmen on the plane were picked up at 12.05pm, just moments before it disappeared beneath the water, while the two in the raft were collected later - all 11 owing their lives to the bravery of one Motherwell pigeon.

White Vision full story is published in The Animal Victoria Cross - The Dickin Medal by Peter Hawthorne.

The Dickin Medal was the brain child of People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) founder Maria Dickin and since its introduction in 1943 White Vision is one of just 63 animals from across the world to be rewarded for displaying outstanding loyalty, bravery and courage.

Afterwards White Vision was renamed What Saviour to mark her incredible deed.

A history and law lecturer, Mr Hawthorne told the Times & Speaker how a brave cat led him to start the four year project.

He said: “I saw an article in the paper about a cat receiving The Dickin Medal and while I could understand say a horse or dog getting one, as they can be trained, a cat seemed unusual.

“I was so intrigued that I wrote to the PDSA asking for more information about the winners, but they didn’t have very much so I decided to start researching myself.

“White Vision was relatively simple as the Imperial War Museum has all her information, but other required a bit more effort until I had all 63 and it’s been a good hobby for a few years.”

The Animal Victoria Cross - The Dickin Medal is out now published by Pen & Sword Military costing £16.99RRP.