Friday, December 11, 2015

Operation Columba Report 1943

(c) Crown copyright images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, UK
Catalog numbers WO208/3556 #22, #23, #24, #25
WO208/3555 #32, #33
Documents exceed the frame for ease of reading.

The British created Operation Columba to gather intelligence from occupied Europe.  Pigeons were dropped from aircraft in small boxes attached to small parachutes.  Residents of France, Holland, and Belgium sent the pigeons back with messages containing intelligence about the German military.
Some points in the report:
Pigeons would continue to be used in 1944 because the service was worthwhile; a message from 1944 is included after the report;
Pigeon loftowners gave their pigeons without charge because they believed they were helping the war effort;
Accuracy of dropping the pigeons was improved significantly by the pilots;
Returns of pigeons from Holland were low because the population feared the pigeons might actually be German pigeons who would return to German lofts with the messages;
Pigeons delivered messages to Britain from Bordeaux, a distance of approximately 400 miles.

Below is a message delivered by pigeon number 41-2813 from Belgium in 1944.

Photo of pigeon in Rome by D. Truong, 2015.

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