Pigeons recognised for honour of serving Britain in WWII
NewsMonday 27 May 2013
A set of five medals awarded for pigeons during the Second World War were shown on the Antiques Road show. It shows the remarkable lengths that the birds went to so they could gather intelligence and deliver vital communications.
The British went to extraordinary lengths to train the birds and use them. One such method included strapping cameras to their bodies to capture aerial photographs. The birds would then fly back to Britain where they would deliver this vital intelligence about German movements to the British army. Another story told of how one set of pigeons were fitted with parachutes and dropped into occupied France. From here they would deliver back messages from the French about German positions. All RAF planes were fitted with a pigeon when making flights so if an emergency happened and communications were shut off then their positions could be relayed to the authorities back home.
A nasty story emerged though when one pigeon was found in Britain with a note in German. It said that the French recipient had been shot for spying when they were found with the pigeon.
Overall 32 racing pigeons were awarded the Dickin Medal which is the animal version for the Victoria Cross.
British authorities went as far as printing warning posters across the country to tell the starving population not to shoot the pigeons as their messages could mean the difference between life and death.
An expert on the matter, Stewart Wardrope, from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association took them to the Antiques Roads Show to explain in more detail.
He commented 'Thousands of racing pigeons were used by the Allies in the war and they saved lives and brought very important intelligence back from the French about the Germans.
'The British dreamed up all sorts of ways of getting them to the French Resistance.
'They strapped them in little parachutes so that they couldn't fly off and dropped them out of the planes over a pre-arranged position.
'Then there were problems with pigeons flying into the tail planes of faster aircraft so the British put the pigeons inside little boxes with a cork screw fan and the friction of the wind wound the fan which opened the box allowing the pigeon to drop out.
'Anybody caught with a racing pigeon in France were considered to be spies and were court martialled and possibly executed.
'The Germans had special teams called Hawk units based along the coast which were snipers and their job was to try and shot England-bound pigeons out of the sky.
'All the pigeons were interested in was getting home but they regularly had to fly through shot and fire to do that.
'They returned to their owners who then made contact with the military and passed on the coded messages.'
It is not known how much the medals are worth but as a collection they could fetch a lot.
Source: Daily Mail