Hopes for pigeon release at Sandringham to remember Prince Philip

To mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Royal Loft Manager Peter Farrow releases a pigeon outside the N

Royal loft manager Peter Farrow releases a pigeon outside the Norwich Gates at Sandringham to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee - Credit: Ian Burt

Pigeons will be released around the nation for a special flight in memory of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) hopes the Queen's lofts at Sandringham will be among those taking part.

Richard Chambers, the RPRA's development officer, said so far 33 fanciers around the country had signed up for the event, which is scheduled to take place at 12-noon. Each will release 10 birds - one to mark each decade of the Duke's life - before his funeral at Windsor Great Chapel.

"We're planning on releasing from Sandringham but to do anything with the Royal birds we need permission," said Mr Chambers. "I'm hoping we'll be able to release from the Royal gates tomorrow." 

Duke of Edinburgh

Well-wishers examine the tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh at Sandringham - Credit: Chris Bishop

The Queen has some 200 racing birds in her lofts, which were rebuilt in 2015. They are close to Wood Farm at Wolferton, where Prince Philip lived after retiring from public life in 2017 and the Duke is said to have shared his wife's interest in the sport.

"When the Queen used to visit the lofts the Duke used to visit as well," said Mr Chambers. "The Duke used to ask questions about the birds, when it was time to leave he'd still be asking questions."

The Royal Family's association with pigeon racing dates back to 1886 Belgium's King Leopold II gave them pigeons to start a loft at Sandringham. Both King Edward VII and King George V were keen racers.

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During the war, Royal pigeons were among those carried in special baskets on RAF bombers, who would be released if the aircraft was forced to ditch. The aircraft's co-ordinates would be hastily scrawled down before the bird was left go, in the hope of guiding rescuers to the downed crew.

Former Royal pigeon loft manager Len Rush releases a bird to celebrate the birth of Prince William,

Former Royal pigeon loft manager Len Rush releases a bird to celebrate the birth of Prince William, in 1982. - Credit: Archant

Royal Blue, a bird owned by King George VI, was awarded a Dickin Medal for Gallantry for flying home to report a lost aircraft.

The Queen's birds have won numerous races, in which prizes range from £10 to £1,000. She is also patron of the RPRA.

In 1982, the Queen's then loft manager Len Rush, released a bird at the Norwich Gates to celebrate the birth of Prince William. And in 2012, loft manager Peter Farrow let one fly at the gates to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.