War pigeon

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DEFENCE OF THE REALM
Regulation 21A

SHOOTING
HOMING PIGEONS

Killing, wounding or molesting homing pigeons
is punishable under the
Defence of the Realm Regulations by
Six Months Imprisonment or £100 Fine

The public are reminded that homing pigeons
are doing valuable work for the government,
and are requested to assist in the
suppression of the shooting of these birds.

£5 Reward
will be paid by the National Homing Union
for information leading to the conviction
of any person
SHOOTING HOMING PIGEONS
the property of its members.

Information should be given to the Police, Military Post or to
the Secretary of the Union, C C Plackett, 14, East Parade, Leeds

British WW1 warning regarding the killing of war pigeons

Pigeons have long played an important role in war. Due to their homing ability, speed, and altitude, they were often used as military messengers. They ceased being used as of 1957.

Nineteenth century[edit]

Main article: Pigeon post

In 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War, when Paris was surrounded by Prussian troops, the French military used hot air balloons to transport homing pigeons past enemy lines. Microfilm images containing hundreds of messages allowed letters to be carried into Paris by pigeon from as far away as London. More than one million different messages travelled this way during the four-month siege. They were then discovered to be very useful so were used in World War One.

World War I[edit]

German unmanned camera pigeon (probably aerial reconnaissance in WW I)
Dispatching of a message by carrier pigeon within the Swiss Army during the First World War.

Homing pigeons were used extensively during World War I. In 1914 during the First Battle of the Marne, the French army advanced 72 pigeon lofts with the troops.

The US Army Signal Corps used 600 pigeons in France alone.

One of their homing pigeons, a Blue Check hen named Cher Ami, was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre with Palm" for heroic service delivering 12 important messages during the Battle of Verdun. On her final mission in October 1918, she delivered a message despite having been shot through the breast or wing. The crucial message, found in the capsule hanging from a ligament of her shattered leg, saved about 200 US soldiers of the 77th Infantry Division's "Lost Battalion".[citation needed]

World War II and later[edit]

Left: Swiss homing pigeon service sergeant major, Women's Military Service, uniform of 1986

During World War II, the United Kingdom used about 250,000 homing pigeons. The Dickin Medal, the highest possible decoration for valor given to non-human animals, was awarded to 32 pigeons, including the United States Army Pigeon Service's G.I. Joe and the Irish pigeon Paddy.

The UK maintained the Air Ministry Pigeon Section during World War II and for a while thereafter. A Pigeon Policy Committee made decisions about the uses of pigeons in military contexts. The head of the section, Lea Rayner, reported in 1945 that pigeons could be trained to deliver small explosives or bioweapons to precise targets. The ideas were not taken up by the committee, and in 1948 the UK military stated that pigeons were of no further use. However, the UK security service MI5 was still concerned about the use of pigeons by enemy forces. Until 1950, they arranged for 100 birds to be maintained by a civilian pigeon fancier in order to prepare countermeasures.[clarification needed] The Swiss army disbanded its Pigeon section in 1996.[1]

Unconfirmed recent uses[edit]

In 2010, Indian police expressed suspicion that a recently captured pigeon from Pakistan might have been carrying a message from Pakistan.[2]

Decorated war pigeons[edit]

In total, 34 pigeons were decorated with the Dickin Medal[3] including:[4]

Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ""Auflösung des Brieftaubendienstes abgeschlossen" (July 2, 1996)". www.admin.ch. 1996-07-02. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  2. ^ By Express / AFP (2010-05-29). ""Fowl play: alleged spy pigeon held in India" (May 28, 2010)". Tribune.com.pk. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  3. ^ Flying heroes: The true story, PDSA Dickin Medal: 'the animals' VC'
  4. ^ "PDSA Dickin Medal: 'the animals' VC'". PDSA. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 

External links[edit]