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Feathery Flying Operations for HMS Montrose

Type 23 Frigate HMS Montrose conducted a rather unusual set of flying operations, last week, whilst off the coast of the British Isles.

The day’s flying operations would normally have seen the embarked Wildcat HMA Mk2 helicopter taking to the skies on various flying sorties – however in this case it was in fact a racing pigeon that had used the Ship’s flight deck as a landing strip, after it seemed to have lost its way during a race!

After inquisitive and bemused looks from the Ship’s Company, who were watching Leading Seaman Tymoor Nabil using his ‘Ace Ventura Pet Detective’ style skills to catch the slippery feathered fowl on the loose, the pigeon was finally apprehended after he enticed it with some bread and water.

The pigeon race had started from Toulouse in France, and for the rescued pigeon, would cover a distance of 1353 kilometres (840 miles) to her home city of Birmingham.

She is now definitely an honorary part of the Ship’s Company

LS Tymoor Nabil

Pigeon racing requires a specific breed of pigeon bred for the sport, the ‘Racing Homer’. Competing pigeons are specially trained and conditioned for races that vary in distance from 100 kilometres (62 miles) to 1000 kilometres (620 mile) and further.

Despite these lengths, races can be won and lost by seconds, so many different timing and measuring devices have been developed.

The traditional timing method involves rubber rings being placed into a specially designed clock, whereas a newer development uses RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags to record arrival time, like what was found on the rescued pigeon.

There was a plausible reason that the extremely exhausted female racing pigeon had either lost her way, or had in fact sniffed out a fellow ‘brummy’ on-board the Ship for some company in the form of the Weapons Engineering Officer who lives in Kings Norton in the south of the city!

With HMS Montrose currently on tasking monitoring two Steregushchiy Class Corvettes cruising around the UK waters, fate had it that the pigeon that had clearly some form of in-flight difficulty, was able to make an emergency landing onto the Type 23 Frigate.

LS Tymoor Nabil, who rescued the pigeon, now nicknamed ‘Rosie’ said, “It was a pleasing moment to be able to rescue the hapless bird. She has had numerous sailors pay her a visit whilst they have gone about their daily work on-board.

“She is now definitely an honorary part of the Ship’s Company and has become the wind beneath my wing!”

On closer investigation of the racing pigeon’s ankle tags, Tymoor Nabil was also able to inform the pigeon’s owner, Mr David Janes from Birmingham.

He commented, “I am extremely grateful for the Royal Navy and Tymoor Nabil’s assistance in rescuing and looking after the one year old racing pigeon.

“I look forward after the pigeon has had some rest, and once HMS Montrose is nearer UK land, for the Ship to release her to continue on her way.”

After a few days of some much needed food and rest, along with some good old fashioned tender loving care from LS Tymoor Nabil, the perky pigeon was back to her usual cheeky self, and once HMS Montrose had closed nearer the UK coastline, ‘Rosie’ was set free to soar the air lanes above, and continue her onward journey back to her owner in Birmingham. 

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