Friday, March 25, 2022

Preserving the History of the World War II PIgeons

The British Army in the United Kingdom, 1939-45
A message written on rice paper is put into a container and attached to a carrier pigeon by members of 61st Division Signals at Ballymena, Northern Ireland, 3 July 1941.  Imperial War Museum © IWM (H 11281)

As Me:  A Story of Birds, People, the Second World War, and Reincarnation by Jennifer Spangler is now free to read online.  Birds play major roles in the story and many sections are told from a bird’s perspective.  If you’d like to check it out, search for

That’s as me in two centuries spelled out.


This is an excerpt from the Signal Pigeon Company Handbook, published by the United States War Department in 1944.  Self Reliance books published a facsimile of this manual in 2017.  From page 4 of Section II.  DUTIES AND CAPABILITIES:
8.  CAPABILITIES.  a.  Reliability.  Reliability is the most desirable characteristic of the homing pigeon.  Records disclose that 99 percent of the messages sent by pigeons during tactical operations are delivered successfully.”

The Red Pigeon

In They Had No Choice, Racing Pigeons At War, Garry McCafferty recounts the story of Tom Milar, as told to him by Eric Smallman of Kent.  Best friends, Eric and Tom went into the forces at the same time and served in the infantry in France.  During a heavy bombardment of British troops, both men were severely wounded.  Stretcher bearers picked Eric up.  Tom made it to a trench.  A few days later, Eric learned that Tom had died.  He spoke with the medic who had recovered Tom’s body.  The medic had found a dead pigeon in his tunic.  This seemed fitting because Tom had kept pigeons before the war.  But how did Tom have a pigeon with him in the trench? Years later, in the early seventies, Eric received a collection of papers and a worn red diary from Tom’s son Brian.  Then, in 2001, Eric was reading Pigeon Weekly and saw an article about McCafferty’s forthcoming book.  He called McCafferty and told him about Tom and the pigeon and said it would be a tribute to Tom if the story were in the book.  McCafferty writes, “A few days later I was to receive the diary, which I have to say was heartbreaking to read.  I have set out below the last entry written by Tom before he died.”

Things don’t look too good.  I’ve been badly hurt, my left leg has been  blown away from the knee.  I don’t think I will last much longer as I am losing too much blood.  I’m in the South trench but everyone is dead, there is no movement, only the smoke and the smell.  Please tell Mary and the children that I love them with all my heart, I hope they don’t feel bad of me.  I can’t write much more.  I am weak.  I know I will soon be with my Maker.  I am not afraid.  I thought I was on my own but a red pigeon has just fallen from the sky and is just a few inches from me.  He must be on service too.  We make a good pair, I have one leg left, and he is missing a wing.  I will keep him warm, we will go on together, goodnight, God bless.


Half-buried, a camouflaged combat loft at the Anzio beachhead, Italy.  From The Pigeons That Went to War by Gordon H. Hayes.  Used by permission of the Pacific Library.

Below is a list of posts with their post date.  Click on the year in the blog archive on the right to find a post.  Even if a document is partially covering the arrow, you can still click on the month and go to that page. You can also scroll past this list of posts and read posts page by page.



Pigeon Messages:  “When you have our exact address through Lockhart, do your utmost to let us have other pigeons in this district.”   3/26/22


Pigeon Messages  3/19/22


Pigeon Messages:  “They have already destroyed a pigeon found by a woman who gave it up to them.”   2/26/22


Intelligence on Coastal Defenses   2/19/22


Pigeon Messages   2/12/22


Pigeon Messages:  “There is nothing to eat.”  1/26/22

Pigeon Messages:  “The ‘blackshirts’ try to get out of it when they get orders to go to Russia.”   1/14/22

Pigeon Questions and Intelligence on Coastal Defenses   1/8/22

Notes on the Tactical Use of Pigeons in the Desert of California and Arizona   12/17/21


Pigeon Messages: “…the Germans prosecute and murder as much as they can.”   12/11/21


A History of the 280th Signal Pigeon Company-All chapters   12/4/21

History of the Fourth Pigeon Platoon   11/13/21


Pigeon Message:  The Palomacy 2022 Bird-A-Day Desk and Wall Calendars Are Available   11/8/21


Pigeon Messages:  “They are beaten and tortured to try to make them talk, but they invariably remain mute.  They are brave people.”   11/6/21

Pigeon Messages:  “We have no more pigeons.  Please send us some by parachute…”   10/30/21


Pigeon Messages:  “…please let us know over the B.B.C. saying that you will send immediately two other pigeons and quote the coordinates.”   10/22/21


Pigeon Messages:  “Tell your bomber pilots to be more accurate.  Many civilian victims.”   10/17/21


Pigeon Messages:  “Be careful when machine gunning roads.  Many of us are killed.”   10/9/21


Pigeon Messages:  “The electric current has been cut and we are therefore without news.”  10/3/21


Pigeon Messages:  “Round where I live I know of 4 emplacements of flying torpedos.”   9/26/21


Pigeon Messages:  “Germany and France kapout.  England and America very rich.  We are lost.”  9/19/21


Tribute to the Palomacy BirdADay Calendar  9/14/21


Pigeon Messages From Behind Enemy Lines   9/11/21

Pigeon Messages From Behind Enemy Lines   9/4/21


Maroon Pigeon  3/23/21


War Pigeons and Pigeon Messages  2/9/21


“Through a mishap this bird lost the questionnaire”  Pigeon Messages, 1941  1/26/21


277th Signal Pigeon Company and Third Army, Pigeon Messages From Behind Enemy Lines, 1941, and A Look at the Palomacy Calendar  1/12/21

Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941  12/22/20


Correspondence regarding use of pigeons in North Africa, 1943  12/15/20


Ike commands expanded use of pigeons in North Africa, August 1943 and BirdADay Desk Calendar to benefit pigeon and dove rescue  12/8/20


Planning 5000 pigeons for Husky, May 1943  12/4/20


Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941  11/23/20


New Book in the Pigeon History Genre:  War Pigeons by Elizabeth Macalaster  11/16/20


Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941, and Patton excerpt  11/13/20


Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941  11/7/20


Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941 and Patton Books  10/28/20

Pigeon Messages from Behind enemy Lines, 1941 and excerpt from Moon Squadron  10/21/20


Happy Days are Here Again and Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941  10/16/20


Paiforce Pigeon Service War Diary July-November, 1943 and Pigeon Messages from Behind Enemy Lines, 1941  10/8/20


Pigeon Messages From Behind Enemy Lines and Who Were Fasson and Grazier  10/1/20

Messages from Occupied Europe  9/26/20


Special podcast about the Battle of Britain and How did the Blitz influence the use of pigeons in WWII?  9/12/20


Picking the Right Pigeon:  Royal Air Force Pigeon Instructions  8/28/20


Pigeons aid in SOE agent’s escape from France, 1940  8/1/20


Gordon H. Hayes photos: more photos added 5/9/20

Reorganization of Middle East Pigeon Service after victory at El Alamein, 1942  4/25/20

Pigeons deliver 884 messages in first year of Middle East Pigeon Service, 1943; Bletchley Park short film  4/12/20

“Unlikely Alliance” by Chuck Oshaben: A story about crows and young pigeons  3/28/20

Middle East Breeding Centre and School, 50 pigeons needed at Aden, 1943, and talk about Enigma by Dermot Turing, 2020  3/15/20

50 lofts needed in East Africa and Pigeon Loft 271 to serve Bombers USAAF, 1943   3/8/20

Supply of pigeons from South Africa and Establishment of Lofts for Middle East Pigeon Service, Jan-Mar 1943  3/8//20

Construction of sectional lofts at Benghazi and Tripoli, March 1943  1/14/20

Expansion of Breeding in Middle East Pigeon Service  12/28/19

US Army Signal Pigeon Companies Manuals  12/25/19

Why does the hawk wait?  11/28/19

Have the pigeons arrived?  Managing the Pigeon Service in Africa, 1943  11/2/19

Accommodations for 3300 pigeons, March 1943  10/5/19

Remembering a brave pigeon  09/28/19

Report on pigeons in East Africa, April 29, 1943  08/30/19

2500 pigeons needed from South Africa, May 1943  08/24/19

NOMAD pigeons  08/15/19

Plot of 2019 novel centers around Britain’s National Pigeon Service  08/11/19

568 pigeons sent on service, Cyprus, November 1943  08/07/19

Portsmouth museum displays Gustav’s Dickin Medal  8/07/19

New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio Honors World War II Pigeons  7/18/19

Pigeoneer’s Operations Manual  7/18/19

Middle East Pigeon Service Report  February 24, 1943  7/13/19
Instructions for Middle East Pigeon Service Personnel, 1943  7/4/19

Pigeons in Iraq, April 1943  6/29/19
Report on Visit to Western Desert, March 1943  6/20/19

Brave Pigeons, Humble Pigeons, Fast Pigeons, and Pigeons Who Flew from the Normandy Beaches:  The Meritorious Performance List  5/31/19

Pigeons in Africa, May 1943  5/25/19

75th Anniversary of D-Day  5/21/19

Pigeons in question duly arrived and youngsters ready for South Africa, 1943  5/10/19

Adjustments to Middle East Pigeon Service as Allies make progress, April 1943  5/6/19

The Bird  4/6/19
A Different Pigeon Story  3/28/19
Middle East Pigeon Service Reports  3/19/19

A baby pigeon, called to duty, takes the train  2/21/19

War Pigeons:  Captain Fulton, G.I. Joe  2/21/19
War Pigeons:  Yank, Lady Astor, The Doll Baby  2/21/19

9 HQ Section Pigeons, 1943  2/5/19

Next to our hearts  1/25/19

Middle East Pigeon Service Pigeons:  Photos  1/15/1

The Pigeons That Went to War, Gordon H. Hayes Collection  1/12/19

Middle East Pigeon Service photos contributed by Jane M. Barrett  1/4/19

War Pigeons:  Italian Alps, January 1945  12/26/18
Honoring a veteran and pigeon historian, Frank Quatrocci  12/8/18
War Pigeons:  Cassino, Italy, 1944: Miss Peggy, Master Brian, Just Jerry  11/28/18
15 HQ Carrier Pigeon Section pigeons readied for use by USAAF and RAF, 1943  11/24/18
War Pigeons:  Tunisian Campaign, Lady Astor, 1943  11/24/18
236 Operational messages delivered by Middle East Pigeon Service pigeons in October 1943     11/18/18
The Pigeons That Went to War, “Far Up Front”  11/3/18
World War II Pigeons, Imperial War Museum Photographs  11/3/18
World War II Pigeoneers’ Stories  10/5/18
Middle East Pigeon Service Film, 1942  9/26/18
Pigeons in World War II by Major W.H. Osman, photos and letters  9/15/18
D-Day Pigeons, 1944  8/28/18
Operation Gibbon:  Agent Ceysens’s first pigeon message  7/27/18
Pigeons in Italy:  21 HQ Section Carrier Pigeon Reports, Sept.-Dec. 1944  7/14/18
2 way communication between lofts, November,1944  11/22/17
Large number of pigeons needed to keep pace with advance of 8th Army, 1944  11/16/17
Large number of pigeons requested to be trained, July 1944  10/30/17
Special Force No. 1 use of pigeons, June 1944  10/28/17
Middle Eastern Pigeon Service in Palestine, Cyprus, and Iraq, 1942  10/18/17
21 HQ Carrier Pigeon Service:  number of messages delivered and note on pigeons flying 200 miles,    10/8/17
Supply of pigeons inadequate for Middle East, East and West  Africa, 1943   9/30/17
Italians request permission to train pigeons for the Allies at lofts in Rome, 1944   9/24/17
Pigeons prove to be successful substitute for wireless, 14th Army, June 1944  9/16/1
21 Carrier Pigeon Service, 1944   7/30/17
Note about lofts in Aden, 1943   7/23/17
Report on training and liberating pigeons in the slipstream, 1943   7/4/17
Middle Eastern Pigeon Service Report February 1943   6/26/17
Plans for D-Day   6/16/17
340 pigeons dispatched to Indian Pigeon Service, 1944  6/8/17
Pigeons at Malta lofts averaging 220 operational messages per week, July 1944   6/2/17
Pigeons at Port Said, 1943   5/27/17
Pigeons homing at night, January 1943   5/20/17
Report on Indian Pigeon Service, July 1944    5/20/17
RAF pigeons in Italy 1944   5/20/17
Report on the rescue of the crew of the Baltimore, 1943   5/9/17
Report on East Africa Pigeon Service, 1943   5/7/17
Middle East Pigeon Service NOMAD pigeons, 1943  5/5/17   4/7/17
Indian Pigeon Service Conference, 1944    4/27/17
Plans for pigeons during Operation Overlord, 1944   4/21/17
Methods of dropping pigeons for airborne operations, 1943   4/15/17
Pigeons in Italy, 1944   4/7/17
Flights by pigeons, 1944   4/1/17
Lofts to be set up in Iraq, Aden, and East Africa; captured lofts to serve as invaluable means of communication, 1943   3/29/17
Boomerang 2-way pigeon service training instructions, 1944   3/14/17
Plans to set up pigeon service in Iraq, 1944   3/5/17
Pigeons to carry film, 1944     3/3/17
1944 report on use of pigeons in the Balkans and Italy     2/26/17
Pigeons were primary means of communication for S.A.S., 1944     2/24/17
Report on use of pigeons by 8th Army, 1944     2/15/17
Accomplishments by RAF pigeons, 1942-44     2/15/17
Report on Indian Pigeon Service, July 1944     2/4/17
Problems faced by pigeons who flew as part of the D-Day invasion     1/28/17
Middle East Pigeon Service War Diary September 1943       1/14/17
RAF parachutists’ method for landing with pigeons, 1942     1/10/17
D-Day pigeons flying abilities hampered by too many days in containers     1/3/17
Plan to set up pigeon service in Greece, April 1944     12/27/16
Middle East Pigeon Service Reports on pigeons, Mar-Apr 1944---establishment of 12-way link; 1500 pigeons sent to A.A.I     12/24/16
Report on pigeons in Syria and Palestine, Nov. 1943     12/18/16
Captured Italian pigeon lofts to be used by the Allies for communication 1943     12/14/16
Reorganization of Middle East Pigeon Service July 1943---descriptions of loft capabilities     12/8/16
Arrival of 1100 pigeons at Middle Eastern Pigeon Service HQ May 1943     12/4/16
Use of pigeons in Syria and Palestine, 1944     11/24/16
Mediterranean Pigeon Service reorganization, 1943    11/18/16
Pigeons trained by Middle Eastern Pigeon Service to deliver messages from Cyprus to caiques , 1943     11/11/16
1944 Report on using pigeons to deliver messages in Sicily and Italy    11/2/16
Middle Eastern Pigeon Service extricates more than 300 men from danger 1944     10/26/16
Use of pigeons by British and Americans 1944     10/23/16
Microgram Pigeon Service 1944     10/23/16
1943 Training Notes on 2-Way Pigeon Service    10/12/16