AN Andover shopping centre will release 100 homing pigeons to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

On Monday at 11am The Chantry Centre will launch a programme of activity, including a school’s outreach campaign, displays in the centre and charity fundraising for 10 military charities.

A bugler in First World War costume will play Reveille before 100 homing pigeons are released outside the entrance to the shopping centre by Andover pigeon racer Melvyn Bird.

Mayor of Test Valley Councillor Jan Lovell will pull back two giant Union flags to unveil an interactive display inside the shopping centre, which will feature newsreel footage of pigeons behind the front line, the military charities the event is supporting and the names of all the Andover servicemen on the town’s war memorial.

Steve Cotney, centre manager at The Chantry Centre, said: “The project, which we have called tWW1tter, is based on the significance of communications in the field of war and features the importance of carrier pigeons during the First World War.

“We are also linking directly to the 213 Andover servicemen who sacrificed their lives in the conflict and who are commemorated on the war memorial in St Mary’s churchyard.”

Among guests at the opening ceremony will be Fiona Sexton and her two children, the daughter and grandchildren of Tony Goulding, whose book A Tribute to an Andover Lad, Private William Goulding is a unique documentation of the war experiences of Tony’s uncle William Goulding, who is commemorated on the town’s war memorial.

The centre is also inviting shoppers to help r a i s e funds for 10 military charities by collecting tokens every time they spend in 45 of the centre’s stores, including Boots, Argos, Waterstones and Waitrose.

The shoppers choose their charity by placing their tokens in the appropriate pigeon holes at the central display.

In early September 10 homing pigeons will be released in France to race back to the UK.

Each pigeon will be assigned to one of the chosen military charities and the first three pigeons returning will receive £1 for each token in their box, with each charity represented receiving at least £100 to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.