Pigeon “Q879”


Q879, a blue chequer cock pigeon, and Dickin Medal winner, RELAWM30792.

In 1944 a blue chequer pigeon known as “Q879” or “Q” was sent to assist United States forces attempting to recapture Manus Island, north of New Guinea. A small group of soldiers were sent to investigate reports that enemy troops were preparing for a counter-attack. The soldiers headed off through dense jungle with a radio and a basket of pigeons, including Q. Just outside the village they confirmed the reports were correct; many Japanese soldiers were camped nearby, preparing for a major attack.

As the Americans headed back to base with their news they were spotted by the Japanese. A fight broke out and the soldiers needed help, but their radio no longer worked. One after another the pigeons were released, with messages calling for help rolled up in tiny canisters on their legs, but each was shot down by the Japanese troops. The Americans were surrounded by the enemy.

Finally, Q was sent skywards. The soldiers knew he was their last chance for rescue. As he broke through into clear sky, the sounds of gunshots rang out. Higher and higher he spiralled, and within minutes he was out of range, safely away on his mission. He flew the 48 kilometres back to base in 47 minutes; help was sent, and the patrol was saved. For his bravery, Q was awarded the Dickin Medal.

Read more about Q


  1. Pigeons were used in great numbers during the First World War, but by the start of the Second World War some thought they might no longer be useful. Why might this have been the case? Why might these birds have still been important in this war? This blog article may be helpful.


  1. Use this encyclopedia entry to find out about the dog named Horrie. Why did Horrie become so important to Private Jim Moody and his friends?

Horrie, mascot of the 2/1st Machine Gun Battalion, in Palestine, 1942, AWM P02173.001

  1. Animals are still used in the military today. Look at this sculpture: what does it tell you about the close relationship between Explosive Detection Dogs and their handlers?

Ewen Coates, Elevation of the senses (2015, bronze, 195 x 85 x 285 cm, AWM ART96850).

Related objects

Dickin Medal

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