A Brief history

Where did the name Planet Brothers come from and how did it originate? This is a question that is often asked, and to understand this, we have to go back to the very beginning.
The year is 1967, England was just getting over the euphoria of winning the World Cup and there was a buzz within the London sporting community. Pigeon Racing was enjoying a surge in membership, with many families enjoying the sport together with their children. It was affordable, competitive and a sport that ran through the veins of many London East End families. The Squibb family was no exception, with John racing as a child, his father before him and his father before him. With 3 generations of pigeon fliers it was only natural that Gary, aged 12 and his younger brother Bruce, aged 10, would inevitably want to start racing pigeons.

Their father is sceptical of the brothers commitment to keeping pigeons and he does not pay much attention to the first pigeons they obtain from the market in Club Row, London. He passes it off as a phase that will pass and does little to encourage their new found hobby. The brothers go to their grand father to obtain birds and they are refused. From here they go to several of their uncles and once again are refused. They try anyone who has the name of Squibb, but are not directly related and each time they are turned down. Only one helps them, and he was one of the most successful of all the Squibbs. Ron Squibb raced in the Stepney Green club and won out of turn. Week in, week out he was always bringing home the red cards. He had obtained his pigeons from a Dutch fancier after catching one of his birds, in a beer vat, at the brewery where he worked. Upon visiting him, Gary and Bruce came away with a fabulous Red pied hen that had won no less than 12 firsts. It was a real cracker and one that I wished we had today.

But Rons generosity was too little too late. John Squibb had watched his sons ask all the family for some help and none of them gave it to them. After all, we were only children, what harm could we do?

John took the snub very personally and the resentment for his family started to fester and was to stay with him for the rest of his life.
As time moved on the brothers continued keeping pigeons, and by this time their loft had progressed from a small rabbit hutch to a small converted dog kennel.
When it was decided that Gary and Bruce wanted to join the local pigeon club and start racing, John took matters into his own hands.
I can remember him saying

If your going to race pigeons then you will have to do it properly with good pigeons, I will go and buy you some

Added to this, he decided that he wanted the family to get no credit for any success, not to be confused with the other Squibbs, he called us Planet Brothers.

The name was easy, John Squibb had used this for his business's, Planet Cleaning Contractors, Planet Building Contractors and his Dog breeding, Planet Dobermans. He had a thing about the name 'Planet', and was one of the first people ever to use it in a commercial venture. He even named his house at Five Oaks Lane, 'The Planets'.


John Squibb was one of the first people to identify the use of the word 'Planet' for a business identity. His company Planet Cleaning contractors was a successful business, as was, Planet Dobermans, where he bred champion dogs for many years.


Planet Brothers founded, John then went about acquiring birds for them to race. He visited a well known stud at that time called George and Webb of Wellingborough, where he purchased some excellent Kirkpatricks and Dordins. He went on to Jan Wilcocks where he bought some Delbars and Cattreyse, from here to Stan Biss, to obtain the famous Gold medal strain.
Not to be out done he then went to the continent where he obtained Fabry's, Busschaerts and Janssens, long before they ever became famous in the United Kingdom.

Such was the gift that John Squibb had for the seeking out good pigeons, in the late 60's, he visited Fabry and Busschaert long before they found their fame outside of Belgium.

With the new purchases, came a new loft, and in 1970 they started breeding their first young bird team to race in the Barking Borough FC part of the South East London Federation It was to be a fantastic year winning all Young bird honours.

In early July 1970, their luck was to take another turn. Gary, and Bruce, were playing in the garden at their Dagenham home when they caught a pigeon with the aid of the dustbin lid. Little did they realise at the time, but this bird was to change their fortunes forever.

The bird was a young dark chequer cock, Belgian rung and had a race rubber on it. It had obviously been involved in a bad race and was totally flown out.
They took it to their Dad who told them that if they cared for it and it would get strong enough to find his way home in a few weeks.
Weeks went by, and they grew attached to the young pigeon, so much so that we reported the bird to the Belgium Union and received a letter back from the owner together with the birds results and transfer card.

From a very early age Gary showed signs of his meticulous attitude towards book keeping.

40 years on and the original piece of paper that had the birds details on it is still kept. The ring number and colour is recorded, together with the wing stamp and even the race rubber marks, inside and out.

The bird was to be responsible in later years for the birth of the 'aliens', and together this formed the basis of the Planet Brothers marketing strategy. In the future all the birds would be named with a celestial theme.
The choice was endless, from Roman Gods to Planetary themes, naming a bird was easy. Others began to watch as the foundations for the stud was put in place, the name had a good feel to it and soon fanciers knew us not as John, Gary and Bruce Squibb, but John Planet, Gary Planet and Bruce Planet. See the Planet Brothers story for the full details on the birth of the 'aliens'.

1970, saw the our first young bird season and by this time John Squibb had decided that it was time to move from our present location in Dagenham. Up for sale was a property in Chigwell Row that had about 2 acres of ground, it would be perfect to start the racing stud and John's ticket out of Dagenham. The move meant that we had to convert the old Pig sheds into pigeon lofts and all the birds would need to be 'broken out'.

However, in the winter, we moved and by January a new team was already chipping out. We joint 3 clubs, the Gidea Park HS, the Barkingside FC and the elite London 5 bird Specialist Club. In our first year, with youngsters, we broke all records, winning almost every race and average prize. The pigeon world was shocked, great names in the London area were getting beat like never before, and for all intensive purposes, by two school kids.
The reality was not so shocking when we look back. Bruce, Garys younger brother, had moved on to Horses and Chickens, which meant that John and Gary now raced the birds. It was Johns involvement that was producing the winning.

Gary was a dedicated 'scraper man' and his father the race man. With his knowledge of Horses and Dog breeding behind him , it was an easy transition to make, after all, racing Horses, Dogs or Pigeons all require similar skills.

Dedication and hard work is the key to success.
Acquire good stock, keep them healthy, feed them correctly,train hard, apply good methods and the results will follow

The time at Chigwell was to come to an end when John decided that he wanted to go to Australia, it was a brief spell and one that had been covered with success. The Fabrys, Busschaerts, Dordins and Kirkpatricks had performed marvels winning races every week and on many occasions by huge margins. We were racing quality birds that no one else had, and our methods were streets ahead of the competition. The move to Australia was a huge blow for Gary Planet who by now was coming to the end of his school days and wanted to carry on with the birds. To soften the blow, John said he would take all the birds to Australia, but were later to discover that the quarantine laws prevented any birds from being imported there.

In January 1973, we had to have a compulsory clearance sale, and were careful to label it that way. We knew that if it did not work out in Australia, then we would want to come back to the UK and race again.
We were all to aware of the 3 year ban if you have a clearance sale and did not want that to be the case, after all we could not take the birds with us and had no choice but to sell them.

The pigeons were sold at London Auctions and went on to breed 100's of winners for others and Planet Brothers got very little credit for this. Many of the buyers kept their new found birds secret and in some cases tried to say the birds were bought in Belgium. The Busschaerts were to produce a phenomenon in The UK, like no other strain had done before them, it could be said that they were probably the most successful strain in the UK for the past 50 years and it was John Planet that was one of the first to visit George Busschaert despite what has always been written.

The domination of the Busschaert strain in the 80's meant someone had to come up with something special if they were to beat them. John Planet had to introduce another wonder family of pigeons, little did the fancy know, he was always one step ahead of his competition.

In the 1980's the Busschaerts dominated the British racing scene, nowhere else in the world were they to have the same impact. In Belgium, they remained obscure and it could be said that the British fancier made champions out of such a mixed family of pigeons. George Busschaert would buy birds in from many sources and once on his loft, they were sold as Busschaerts, no mention of anything else. It would take a super family of pigeons to overtake the Busschaerts and John Planet knew exactly where to look.

The Australian dream was destined to fail from the start. John Planet had spent many years building up Planet Cleaning Contractors and he was approached by a large public company to sell out. A huge sum of money was offered and his dream of becoming a millionaire was achieved overnight. He could now travel the world and pursue his dream of living in Australia. With the birds sold, we boarded the ship and set sail for Sydney. This option was chosen because if Australia did not work out, John wanted to see South Africa. This was ruled out, when we disembarked at Cape Town only to find that we could only walk on certain sides of the street and with apartheid in full swing it was never going to be a place that you could set up new roots. On to Sydney, and we made our way to Brisbane, purchasing a house and trying to make a new life. There was one big problem, John and his wife Rose had left behind a thriving business, a successful race loft and a hectic lifestyle. Now, overnight that had all stopped and it wasn't long before they got home sick. There are some things in life that money just cant buy, and they missed their friends and the way of life. In September 1973, we moved back to .The Planets' at Chigwell, because John did not sell the house, and within no time we applied to the Racing Pigeon Union to start racing again. We did not anticipate any problems, after all our sale was a compulsory clearance sale.

The London region in their infinite wisdom turned down our application and we were to take the matter to National level where the decision was upheld. A 3 year ban was put in place and to add salt to the wound, it would start from when we returned to the UK. John Planet was incensed that two brothers aged 17 and 15 were being kept out the sport by bureaucratic nonsense. It was another hatred that was to fester and John Planet, who had lived his life against authoritative figures, found himself with good reason why they deserve the criticism that he bestows upon them.

With our application turned down, John and Rose had time to reflect on their future and it was time to look at the mistakes they made in going to Australia. It was decided that we would give it another go. This time the house in the UK would be sold, because it was felt that it was too much of a pull'. We would also try Perth as apposed to Brisbane. In 1974 we flew back out to Australia and settled in Perth, starting an Office Cleaning business, just like the one we had sold. It was felt that if we had something to occupy our mind then we would not be thinking of back home.

How wrong we were, despite building another successful company in only 9 months, John Planet wanted to go back, he sold the Australian company, and returned to the UK. Upon his return he bought the property at Noak Hill, which to this very day houses the Planet Brothers racing and stock Lofts.

In 1975 after two spells in Australia, John Planet bought the property at Noak Hill where the Planet Brothers were to begin a whole new era of racing pigeons. The decision of the pigeon governing body to ban the partnership for 3 years, because they had a clearance sale, meant time was on their hands. John Planet researched the Belgium racing scene, and in 1979 made his purchases. The impact was to change UK racing with spectacular effect. The Planet Brothers story captures the reasons behind their purchases and gives, for the first time, an insight as to why they were made.

In 1978, we returned to the sport, purchasing pigeons from a number of sources. These sources were from the UK , Belgium and Holland.

From the very beginning , Planet Brothers chose to reveal all their purchases, giving credit, as well as criticism to the breeders of these birds. They ranged from well known studs to small racing lofts. Many have been forgotten about simply because they were discarded in a process of elimination, based upon results.
In the early 80's, many families were tried and tested, some of these included pigeons from Doug Fullbrook, Clwyd Lofts, Ponderosa Lofts, Verheyen and sons, Dr Jeff Horn, Leen Boers, Louis Van loon, Van Hee, Norbet Sieriens, Janssen Brothers and Herman Beverdam.
The Fullbrook, Clwyd Lofts, Ponderosa, Van Hee, Verheyen, Norbet Sieriens and J J Horn pigeons were rejected very quickly, performances in many cases were non existent, and as other significant purchases were made, these were eliminated from our future plans.

It was obvious in a very short space of time that the Janssen based families were the future of our lofts and leading the way was the Louis Van Loon pigeons. Other purchases were made in the 80's from individual and select lofts. These were not disclosed, they were not part of the stud, and were kept for our own racing team. These would later form the backbone of the 'Alien' family and fuel all sorts of speculation. Joining the Woodhill IFC in 1981 and the Grove FC in 1982, we started racing the offspring of our purchases. In 1981 we bred 70 babies from 20 pair of stock pigeons. 30 of the babies were put in the young bird race team and we then pursued a rigorous training programme. We were working with untried stock pigeons and had to find out what they could produce. 20 babies were left at the start of training and our records show that only 8 birds made it to the first race. With such a small team, little was expected of them, when we first took them to the club. 10 races later all 8 had finished the season winning club and Federation averages.

Among the 8 were 6 spectacular birds, Champion 05, Rocketman, Mean Machine, Champion 29, Nelson and Rockethen. Mean Machine, was bred from our Van Loon stock pair Golden Cock and Golden Hen ( later known as the Golden Pair ). Rocketman and Rockethen was a nestpair, bred from a pair of direct Van Loons, The Oude Blauwe van 73 and The Donker Hen ( later to be renamed Blackie ). Nelson and Champion 05 were single youngsters, from another pair of direct Van Loons, Camalot and The Gay Hen 'Champion 29's pedigree was always put down as an 'alien' and not disclosed, however he was bred from a pair of direct Van Loons known as the Producer cock and Louis Choice.

The writing was written on the wall and the results cast in stone, one young bird season and we knew what birds were the best.

When John Planet first approached Louis Van Loon to purchase pigeons he was met with a harsh reaction. He could not speak a word of English and was reluctant to entertain him. John Planet was not one to give up easily, and himself and Rose decided to take matters into their own hands. They were travelling through Belgium in their motorhome and decided to camp on a piece of waste ground opposite Van Loons lofts in Poppel. Each morning they would watch Van Loon attend and exercise his pigeons, whilst John Planet sat in his seat, drinking tea and eating bacon sandwiches. Van Loon was not getting off that easily and if he did not sell John planet pigeons, he would have to put up with the 'Gypsies' that had camped next door, watching his every move!!. After 3 days, John and Rose had a knock on the motorhome door and a young girl, who we now know as Van Loon's daughter, Ann, asked whether she could assist in speaking to her father. She could speak good English, which she had learnt at school, and finally some form of communication was achieved. Van Loon's conception was that all pigeon fliers in the UK were 'chicken farmers', and he had no wish to sell his birds to Englishmen. This was quickly altered when he realised, upon handling John Planet a bird, that this was no 'chicken farmer' sitting in front of him.

John Planet immediately went back to Van Loon and secured our future by purchasing all the birds that Van Loon said were bred around these pigeons. 1982 - 1984 saw over 36 additional Van Loons come back to Noak Hill, many were never bred from but simply bought to clear out the line and prevent anyone else from acquiring the same. 1982 Old bird season was started with 7 cocks. They were put on widowhood in the Woodhill FC and immediately started winning races. We were to pair the best of the young birds together and it produced some of the best pigeons we have ever owned. The most famous being the pairing of Rocketman and Champion 05. Rocketman won three firsts as a baby and clocked up a further 6 wins before being lost racing that year. Champion 05, who had practically won the young bird average on her own, was now a widowhood hen.

Their first round was to produce, Champion Scrumpy and Champion Sure Return who went on to win a staggering 48 x 1sts between them. Their second round produced Dream Girl, one of our best breeders ever.

The Golden Cock and Golden Hen produced, in their first round, Champion One Four who went on to win 26 x 1sts and his nestmate Lucky 13 was to become one of our top stock hens.

Camalot and The Gay Hen were paired again in order to replicate the success of Champion 05, but alas The Gay Hen was not to lay again until 1985, hence her name.

The Bourges Cock, and The Pied Hen van 75 were two Van Loons that we rushed back to purchase in 1981 and they immediately bred The Pied Cock who went on to win 24 x 1sts.

The breeding results were remarkable, and for the next few years Planet Brothers were to dominate the racing scene in London setting records with up to 11000 birds competing.

In 6 years they were to win 464 x 1st prizes including 90 times 1st Federation They were to win 9 RPRA awards for outstanding performances. No other loft in Great Britain ever achieved such results in such a short space of time.

With success, inevitably comes criticism. Planet Brothers had plenty of sceptics who tried to say they were drugging the pigeons and winning through illegal means. The truth was that the competitors hated being beaten with such style and with such a small team of outstanding pigeons. The publicity that the birds had so richly earned was not forthcoming. Instead the competition tried to make it as difficult as possible and started to try and reduce the radius, form new clubs and leave the Federations. In some instances whole Federations left the Combine and if we tried to get into another club we were simply refused.

To overcome the publicity issue, John Planet decided to publish his own pigeon journal and in January 1986, International Pigeon World was launched. It was to run for 4 years and enabled us to have the platform to put our view across.

International Pigeon World was launched by Planet Brothers in 1986 and was an immediate success. It gave John and Gary the means to publicise their views and their pigeons. As the years went by the sceptics were silenced and a strange admiration began to surround the partnership. Hundreds of lofts were now winning with their birds and the top studs started to follow suite by introducing the Van Loon pigeons. In Belgium and Holland, suddenly they all had Van Loons, and were quick to take the money from the many fools that went there in their droves to capitalise on the success that Planet Brothers had created. The result of which was devastating to watch.

Read the truth why Planet Brothers turned their back on the sport for almost 10 years.

In November 1987, the world of Planet Brothers was turned upside down. Events were to happen that forced the retirement from racing in 1988 It was to be a very hard time, and forced the closure of International Pigeon World. As the following years unfolded we were to be thrown into the breeding aspect, and it was time for us to fly the flag for Britain and concentrate on the overseas markets.

Racing Lofts at Noak Hill - a pictorial view

Above: The original Race Loft where many of the Champions raced. Centre:The Dutch Loft that was built in 1982 and later taken down in 2008, photo taken around 2000
Below: When the race loft was taken down in 1987 it was replaced by a larger and more spacious loft, this photo is taken around 1995 and the present loft has seen many alterations since.

For security reasons, present day photographs are not shown.