Orla M. Wins Reigate and Banstead Writes with WWII-Inspired Tale


First Form student Orla M. is the 2020 winner of the prestigious local writing competition Reigate and Banstead Writes.

The judges were unanimous in their praise of Orla’s story ‘A Reigate Pigeon’s War’ and she is a worthy winner. The story follows a carrier pigeon during wartime and charts its experience on a mission; the themes of determination, faith and hope are a reminder to us all during challenging times. 

Not only is the story a subtle and poignant piece of writing, but it also has its roots firmly planted in Reigate’s historical roots. We caught up with Orla in the wake of her success. 

How did you feel about winning? 

Really surprised, happy and amazed – it came out of the blue! Last year I came third but I never dreamed I might win!  

How difficult was writing the story? 

I really enjoy the subject of WWII so it was easy for me to write on this topic. It took around a month of redrafting and editing. I planned the whole piece out as a skeleton and I knew roughly what would go into each paragraph before I started to write. After the plan, I developed each section in more detail. 

What is your favourite part? 

I really like the part when my pigeon meets the other pigeons in Kent. I also like the description of the pigeon’s feelings as it is flying through the war scenes.  

“Dipping, diving through a colourless sky. I hear engines of planes nearby and ear-splitting bangs of guns but all I see is grey, all I smell is smoke and fumes. I taste sweat and hunger inside my mouth and can only feel the wind on my feathers and the digging pain of the capsule on my leg.” 

Where did the inspiration for the story come from? 

My mum has an 87-year-old friend who used to live in the house next door to us in Reigate.  Her grandfather had a pigeon loft on Doods Road during the war. His pigeons flew missions to Europe and her memories of that time formed the ideas behind the story. I really enjoy writing about things I have learnt about and the Second World War is really interesting. 

Do you have any other stories planned? 

I’m thinking of writing a longer story over the summer. I dreamt of writing a novel about a world hidden away under the floor. 

Well done to Orla from all the teachers in the English Department!

You can find out more about Reigate and Banstead writes at: https://reigateandbansteadwrites.com/ 

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