Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Letter in Sunday Telegraph.


Kath
 Share

Recommended Posts

2 Dec. 2007

Pigeons provide a vital lifeline

Sir - You drew attention to the plight of pigeon fanciers (report, November 27) whose activities are not classed as a sport and may be liable to business rate tax on their sheds.

My grandfather, Jack Langley, was a Welsh miner and pigeon fancier who volunteered for the army during the First World War.

He was wounded fighting in France and sent home to recuperate. As soon as he recovered he volunteered a second time and went back to the front. This time, he carried a large wooden box on his back containing pigeons from the royal loft at Sandringham, as the King was always keen to receive the latest news from the fighting direct from serving soldiers.

My grandfather continued the rest of his war caring for the King's pigeons and others, sharing his expertise and sending messages via the birds. He survived the horror, came home to his family and continued to breed and race pigeons into his old age.

There seems to be a double standard regarding homing pigeons. When we are not at war they are a (quasi) sport. When there is conflict they are transformed into a miniature air force for carrying urgent messages. Without the first you cannot have the second.

Rita Greer, Liss, Hampshire.

Kath.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The lady who wrote that letter is reaching far back into the past. Today signals are amost exclusively electronic, as they have been since World War II. The old non-electronic signal modes are a thing of the past. Perhaps if someone figures out how to jam the airwaves the old ways might temporarily come back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The lady who wrote that letter is reaching far back into the past. Today signals are amost exclusively electronic, as they have been since World War II. The old non-electronic signal modes are a thing of the past. Perhaps if someone figures out how to jam the airwaves the old ways might temporarily come back.

An EMP (Electronic Magnetic Pulse) from a nuclear weapon might do the trick, with the possibility of large amounts of electronic equipment, except for some - I very much doubt all - military equipment which has been specially "hardened" against it, being rendered totally useless. I'd be very surprised if the possibilities of a non-nuclear EMP strike with the aim of taking out the enemy's electronic communications hasn't been thoroughly investigated; the big problem would be making sure not to score an own goal by taking out your own gear at the same time!

The carrier pigeons lot in WWI could, it appears, be every bit as unfortunate as that of the Tommy; this reminiscence from Captain A. Goring MC, C Company, 6th Btn., The West Yorkshire Regiment, appears In Lyn Wood's They called it Passchendaele:The story of the third battle of Ypres and of the men who fought in it:

We had a very busy time, for naturally there were snipers all around us and bullets zinging about all over the place. I was left with just a handful of men, all that was left out of those three platoons, so I wanted to send a message back to get a bit of help from the artillery. We had two pigeons in a basket, but the trouble was that the wretched birds had got soaked when the platoon floundered into the flooded ground. We tried to dry one of them off as best we could and I wrote a message, attached it to its leg and sent it off. To our absolute horror the bird was so wet that it just flapped into the air and then came straight down again, and actually started walking towards the German line about a hundred yards away. Well if that message had got into the German's hands, they would have known that we were on our own and we'd have been in real trouble. So we had to try to shoot the pigeon before he got there. A revolver was no good. We had to use rifles and there we were, all of us, rifles trained over the edge of this muddy breastwork trying to shoot this bird scrambling about in the mud. It hardly presented a target at all.

Well, we did manage it but that still left the problem of getting the message back. We did everything to try to dry off that other bird. We had one man called Shuttleworth, a well-meaning chap, but very awkward. If there was apiece of barbed wire that everyone else had avoided, Shuttleworth fell over it. If there was a shell-hole that everybody else had skirted, Shuttleworth fell into it. Shuttleworth , anyway was the one that suggested that we had a tommy cooker with us we could have toasted the bird over that a bit until it dried off. Eventually, we did something nearly as ridiculous. We huddled round this bird and blew on its feathers. As a matter of fact we did get it dried off, but we made jolly sure it was dry before we sent it off with the message,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...