Pigeons During the Two World Wars
Thousands upon thousands of pigeons served with the A.I.F. overseas in active duty with Pigeoneer Signals Unit of the Carrier Pigeons Service of the Australian Corps of Signals. The yeoman service carried out on land sea and in the air by our special Pigeoneer Corps. In both wars carrying dispatches and passports from occupied France Belgium and information from the blimps and from the English Channel spotting subs in action and also other enemy shipping which our feathered heroes carried back to H.Q. when all other sources of communications were cut off. Pigeons were also used by our troops in New Guinea and the Japanese would man the high ground and try and shoot the pigeons as they went through. Pigeons were used by all branches of the Armed Services from aero planes and from ships and from special force soldiers operating far behind enemy lines. Many of these birds are on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
One can always observe pigeons on pictures with Kamadeva, one of the oldest Hindu love gods. Christian religion tells the story of Noah who sent a pigeon 3 times to look for a dry piece of land, and then the pigeon arrived back with mud on its feet. Little pigeon statues were found made 5000 years before our era. The statues have a striking resemblance to modern race pigeons. Greek and Roman history writers quote pigeons. Pigeons informed the home front on victories and defeats of kings and generals. Pigeons were the newsmen between Iraq and at that time Syria in the 12th century. Sultans built pigeon houses. Belgian and Dutch newspapers depended for a great deal on pigeons for their information. Napoleon's defeat in the battle of "Waterloo" was reported to England by Nathan Rothschild's pigeons.
World War I
During World War I some actions were undertaken after forces were informed by photos taken by military pigeons. German forces took possession of more than one million Belgian race pigeons. A war memorial reminds of the military pigeons and their fanciers who died during the war. There is also a war memorial in Lille (France) that reminds of the more then 20.000 military pigeons that were killed during the war. Airplanes and war-ships were always accompanied by racing pigeons. Military pigeons brought 717 tidings of crashed airplanes at sea. 95% of the military pigeons returned from their mission. All 72 pigeons returned to their destination during the offensive of Aisne-Marne. They brought 78 important tidings. 442 pigeons were used during the offensive of Mense-Argonne, they brought 403 tidings. Many birds were badly injured. Some of the most famous military pigeons were Cher Ami, President Wilson, Big Tom, Colonel's Lady, Steady, Lord Adelaine, The Mocker and Spike CHER AMI- was the last hope of a New-York battalion. Many pigeons were already killed. Cher Ami reached his loft although he was wounded very badly. He saved 194 lives of the "Lost Battalion". Once in America, he became the mascot of the Department of Service.
"Cher Ami" was a registered Black Check Cock carrier pigeon, one of 600 birds owned and flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I. He delivered 12 important messages within the American sector at Verdun, France. On his last mission, "Cher Ami," shot through the breast by enemy fire, managed to return to his loft. A message capsule was found dangling from the ligaments of one of his legs that also had been shattered by enemy fire. The message he carried was from Major Whittlesey's "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Infantry Division that had been isolated from other American forces. Just a few hours after the message was received, 194 survivors of the battalion were safe behind American lines.”Cher Ami" was awarded the French "Croix de Guerre" with Palm for his heroic service between the forts of Verdun. He died in 1919 as a result of his battle wounds. "Cher Ami" was later inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1931 and received a gold medal from the Organized Bodies of American Racing Pigeon Fanciers in recognition of his extraordinary service during World War I.
THE MOCKER- was born in 1917. He was wounded on his 52nd mission. He lost his left eye and a part of his cranium. The Mocker died on the June 15, 1937.
PRESIDENT WILSON - was injured and lost his foot on November 5, 1918. It seemed impossible that the bird could reach his destination, but he saved the lives of many surrounded American infantrymen. Wilson died on June 8, 1929.
SPIKE-was born in January 1918. He flew 50 missions and was never injured. Spike died on April 11, 1935.
Many pigeons moved to America after the war. One of the most famous German pigeons was the "Kaiser". He was born in 1917 and was trained for special missions. The Kaiser was captured in 1918 by American forces in the battle of the Meuse. He was a very clever and beautiful bird and had many descendants who proved their intelligence in the races. The Kaiser died when he was 32 (yes thirty-two) years old.
World War II
British and American museums are full of memories of our flying heroes. Pigeons were decorated and buried with military honour. Visitors can admire military pigeons with names as Lord Adelaide, President Wilson, Julius Caesar, Lady Astor, Jungle Joe and Burma Queen. They were brave soldiers holding the rank of captain. There were more then 3000 soldiers and 150 officers of the United States Pigeon Service to take care of 54.000 military pigeons. Some of those pigeons were trained to fly at night; they went together with the field-post, paratroopers and submarines and made pictures of the enemy's fleet, troops and targets for air attacks. One of the most well-known military pigeons was GI Joe. He accomplished his missions in Italy. GI Joe was honored in London by Lord Mayor with the Dickin Medal of Gallantry. The Royal Canadian Air Force had two successfully military pigeons, the "10601" and the "120". The 10601 was born in 1928 and flew its missions mostly from submarines. He accomplished all his missions but was killed by a bird of prey. The "120" flew from Sasaginigek Lakes in very bad circumstances and got struck by a radio wire. Snow-White had a successful flight in Berlin during heavy bombardments. She flew from Hamburg to different lofts. Later on, she flew missions in Italy. Snow-White was honored with the "Military Cross". Ruhr-Express was dropped behind German lines and had to race for about 300 miles (480 km) to its loft. Ruhr-Express brought important information. Scotch-Lass was dropped with a secret agent in the Netherlands on the early morning of September 12, 1944. He reached England with 38 micro-photos although he was wounded. One of the most famous English military pigeons was Mary, she was 22 times wounded. She flew during 5 years for the Allied Powers and was killed in action. Later on the body was found, covered with wounds.
A complete list of pigeons awarded
"THE DICKEN MEDAL"
NEHU.40.NS.1 - Blue Cheq. Hen "Winkie"
MEPS.43.1263 - Red Cheq. Cock "George"
SURP.41.L.3089 - White Hen "White Vision"
NPS.41.NS.4230 - "Beachbomber"
NPS.42.31066 - Grizzle Cock "Gustav"
NPS.43.94451 - Dark Cheq. Cock "Paddy"
NURP.36.JH.190 - Dark Cheq. Hen "Kenley Lass"
NURP.38.EGU.242 - Red Cheq. Cock "Commando"
NPS.42.NS.44802 - Dark Cheq. Cock "Flying Dutchman"
NURP.40.GVIS.453- Blue Cock "Royal Blue"
NURP.41.A.2164 - "Dutch Coast"
NPS.41.NS.2862 - Blue Cock "Navy Blue"
NPS.42.NS.15125 - Mealy Cock "William of Orange"
NPS.43.29018 - Dark Cheq. Cock "Ruhr Express"
NPS.42.21610 - B.C. Hen "Scotch Lass"
NU.41.HQ.4373 - Blue Cock "Billy"
NURP.39.NRS.144 - Red Cock "Cologne"
NPS.42.36392 - "Maquis"
41.BA.2793 - "Broad Arrow"
NURP.39.SDS.39 - "All Alone"
NURP.37.CEN.335 - "Mercury"
NURP.41.SBC.219 - Cock "Duke of Normandy"
NURP.43.CC.2418 - B.C. Hen
NURP.40.WLE.249 - "Mary"
NURP.41.DHZ.56 - "Tommy"
42.WD.593 - "Princess"