A New Animated Film Sheds Light On A Heroic Local History Story

Published November 7, 2019

A new animated film sheds light on a heroic local history story

We are delighted to have partnered on a fascinating project with leading local arts organisation, Double Elephant Print Workshop. The project has seen the creation of a new animated film commemorating the bravery of a World War Two hero pigeon known as Mary of Exeter.

The film has been created by young people from the local area, and directed by members of Exeter Phoenix’s youth arts group, Freefall. The project was made possible by National Lottery players through a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The short film celebrates the largely forgotten tale of Mary, a brave bird who flew for the National Pigeon Service and was housed in the pigeon loft of boot maker Cecil Brewer on West Street in Exeter.

Mary of Exeter was a carrier pigeon who flew many military missions during World War II, transporting important messages across the English Channel back to her loft off Fore Street. She was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for Gallantry (often called the Victoria Cross for animals) in November 1945 for showing endurance despite being seriously injured during three of her missions. She is commemorated in various locations around the city, and buried in the PDSA’s animal cemetery in Ilford alongside 12 other recipients of the Dickin medal.

Double Elephant have spent two years working with local youth groups and partner organisations Exeter Phoenix and Exeter Civic Society to bring Mary’s story to life. The resulting animated film will premiere on the Sunday 10th November from 2-4pm at the AWEsome Art Space, Paris Street, Exeter, alongside an exhibition of research and images uncovered over the course of the project and the making of the film.

The film will also be shown at Two Short Nights film festival which takes place at Exeter Phoenix’s independent, solar-powered cinema Studio 74 from the 27th to the 29th November.

The project was supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to encourage young people in the city to learn about their local heritage. They have researched how pigeons were vital to the war effort and how their WWII contemporaries fared during the war. They have interviewed relatives of Cecil Brewer, local pigeon racers and residents of Exeter who were alive during the time Mary was in active service. The young people and additional volunteers have spent hundreds of hours animating thousands of frames to tell Mary’s heroic story.

The launch of Mary of Exeter will be held on Sunday 10th November at 2pm at the AWESOME Art Space, Paris Street, Exeter. The exhibition and film are open to the public for free with 40s themed refreshments and music on offer too. 

The exhibition will be open from Friday 8 – Friday 15 November inclusive, from 10am – 5pm. 

Two Short Nights film festival is at Exeter Phoenix from 27th to the 29th November 2019. Our film will premiere on Friday 29 November at 5pm. Tickets are available from the Exeter Phoenix Box Office.