A HUNDRED homing pigeons were released outside Andover’s shopping centre to mark the centenary anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The event on Monday marked the start of four months of fundraising for the Chantry Centre, as well as a schools outreach programme and displays in the shopping centre.

At 11am, a bugler, in First World War costume, played Reveille before 100 homing pigeons were released outside the entrance to the shopping centre by Andover pigeon racer Melvyn Bird.

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

Steve Cotney, centre manager, said: “We wanted to make our commemoration local and relevant, with themes that would have a contemporary resonance.

“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 the guests at the opening ceremony were 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 Andover War Memorial.