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Remembered Today:

Pigeon message container


healdav
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I have just had a phone call from a friend here who says that last week, her grandmother gave her a pigeon message container which her husband had brought home from the war in 1918 and has been lying in a drawer ever since.

To their amazement (and her grandmother's) when they unscrewed it the original message is still in it in some sort of envelope.

They are afraid to just take it out and open it as they have no idea of the condition and it may well fall to pieces.

Does anyone know of anyone who specialises in such things or have any suggestions as to what to do?

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I would suggest talking to a good museum. Have a friend here in Australia who works as a paper conservator for the national archives, so imagine that there must be equivalent experts in Luxembourg who would be able to look at the message in situ and advise on how to handle it.

Needless to say would love to know what the message says!

DJM

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Perhaps the message is cooking instructions?

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Or "Can't be bothered to look after this pigeon any more"!

If you were in England I would say find a paper conservator on here http://www.icon.org.uk/ but failing that maybe the librarians at http://www.bnl.public.lu/fr/index.html can advise. And I'll ask a listserv of which I am a member if they can track a conservator down.

sJ

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To update everyone.

The message was put into an exhibition at the British Embassy here on Intelligence work here in Luxemburg. Pigeons were tried without success.

At the official opening on Tuesday evening I got hold of the Director of the National Library who told me to bring it along and their experts will have a look at it, as they have an ongoing project opening a very early lead message which has runes on one side and a crosson the other with a message to Odin. They are opening it with someone from the museum in Arlon (across the border in Belgium).

Simultaneously, the woman to whom it belongs saw someone she knew from the National Archives who told her to bring it in and they will open it!

This will be in at least three weeks time when the exhibition finishes.

I just hope that there isn't any fighting over it.

I will post here on the rest of the saga, but thanks to everyone for suggestions.

The message, by the way, probably concerns the fighting on Messines. Amazingly, her grandfather put it in an envelope with the place and date when he got it, but no one ever opened it.

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  • 2 months later...

The container has been looked at by the Archives, and they have arranged for an expert on this sort of thin to open it. Apparently, this expert says it will need some sort of steam treatment to get it out intact.

The great event will be taking place next week, but unfortunately I am in the south of France until the end of the month, so won't be there. The owner has promised to let me know what happens.

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Thanks for the update, Dave. Looking forward to reading what the message said.

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The container has been opened, and this is what is inside:

ANy light that can be shed on it would be welcome. There was no other document that could shed a light on why this was sent.

post-130-0-33319900-1421932560_thumb.jpe

post-130-0-76328800-1421932606_thumb.jpe

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Hi Dave,

This is the same area (left hand photo) from a July 1917 trench map:

post-48281-0-71760900-1421943370_thumb.j

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  • 9 months later...

The mystery of this message has now been solved.

I was with the people who have this last week, and I docovered that they had managed to get the operation order for this action.

The people concerned had always assumed that the message had been sent from a lower unit to the brigade, but it now appears that it was sent, possibly from the Division or perhaps the Corps, to the Brigade.

The operation order has in it, the times when the black, red, blue lines are to be reached. The yellow lines are the dividing lines between the brigades. However, the operation order does not say where the lines are.

My take is that the operation order was sent out, perhaps a few days before, and that the operational detail about objectives was sent later by pigeon. This message has no information except the lines.

Thus, should either the pigeon message or the operation order fall into enemy hands they would be pretty useless.

As, usually, two pigeons were sent, it is probable that this is the second message. My reasoning is that when the first arrived it would have been used to mark the maps and send details to the various lower units. When the second arrived, the officer who got it, simply stuck it in his pocket, and forgot it until later.

Incidentally, the lady who has it, took it to the IWM and they said that while they have a few pigeon message containers they have never seen one with a message in it. So, quite an amzing thing.

They then produced something in a beautiful leather container, that had obviously been carefully cared for. They had no idea what it was. It was, in fact, an artillery sighting compass; but not an issue item. This well heeled oficer must have bought his own. It has no WO markings at all.

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  • 1 year later...

I'm bringing this up to the top again as I have just heard that the message will be displayed in the Flanders Field Museum, Ypres, as a part of a forthcoming exhibition on the Battle of Messines.

It will give everyone a chance to this this unique piece of history.

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14 hours ago, Ypres1915 said:

What a great find! Any chance of seeing photos of the actual container?

 

ypres1915

Sorry, I don't have a photo of it for some reason.

When I am next chez the owner I will ask to take a photo but that my be some time, and it may be in the exhibition first.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 22/01/2017 at 20:26, Ypres1915 said:

What a great find! Any chance of seeing photos of the actual container?

 

ypres1915

I have been in contact with the owner. She is on holiday at the moment, but promises to send a photo when she gets back m-February. I'll send it on to you when I get it.

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  • 4 weeks later...

If you could message me your mail address, I will send some better photos which I have just received from the owner.

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