William of Orange DM

b. 1942 Knutsford, Cheshire.  d. ?

DATE OF DM ACTION: 09/1944 Arnhem, Netherlands.

William of Orange DM

William of Orange was bred in 1942 by Sir William Proctor Smith of Bexton House, near Knutsford, Cheshire and he became the 21st animal to be awarded the Dickin Medal. He showed great aptitude for speed during training with M114, the agency specialising in German intelligence, and once flew 68 miles in just 59 minutes. He was soon noticed and was selected to accompany 2 Para to Arnhem in September 1944. Commanded by Major John Frost, they captured one of the bridges, but due to communication breakdown, Major-General Urquhart was unaware, and 2 Para were left in desperate need for reinforcements. They clung on for nine days, and the sudden appearance of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions prevented XXX Corps reaching the bridge.

William of Orange was released by British soldiers at 10:30 on 19th September 1944 and arrived at his nest box in England at 14:55. He flew over 400 km (250 mi) and the message he carried was one of few to make their way back to the United Kingdom. Sadly the message arrived too late for reinforcements to be organised and the men of 2 Para were either killed or captured. A full scale withdrawal was ordered and Operation Market Garden was a failure.

William was awarded the Dickin Medal and at the end of the war he was bought out of service by Sir Williiam Proctor Smith for £135, and he enjoyed a long retirement, and it was stated he was still alive ten years later, though too old to race or breed.



For delivering a message from the Arnhem Airborne Operation in record time for any single pigeon, while serving with the APS in September 1944.