The pigeon who never made it to Bletchley Park

The remains of a carrier pigeon were discovered in a chimney, in Surrey, where they had been for decades. A note written by a Sergeant W. Stott more than 70 years ago was found in the red capsule attached to the pigeon’s leg.

Pigeons have long played an important role in war communications. Due to their homing ability, flight speed –over a mile a minute– and altitude, they were often used as military messengers before the advent of radio. Carrier pigeons allowed a mobile force on the battlefield to communicate with a stationary headquarters. During the First and Second World Wars, carrier pigeons were used to transport messages back to their home coop behind the lines. More than a quarter of a million pigeons were deployed on active service only during World War II. Each bird had a number and records were kept of their missions.

A carrier pigeon’s job was dangerous, as the news illustrates. Nearby enemy soldiers often tried to shoot down pigeons, knowing that birds were carrying important messages. Some pigeons became quite famous. One pigeon named “The Mocker”, flew 52 missions before he was wounded. Another, named “Cher Ami”, was injured in the last week of World War I. Though he lost his foot and one eye, his message got through, saving a large group of surrounded American infantrymen.

The pigeon found in the fireplace was thought to be on his way to Bletchey Park, United Kingdom’s main decryption establishment during the World War II and the equivalent of today’s CGHQ where, now, the government code-breakers are working on deciphering the message contained in the red time-capsule sent by the Sergeant. Historians believe the message will provide unique insight into the war.


Featured Image: Message in a Pigeon’s Time Capsule

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