Pigeons at War
This display tells the heroic role that pigeons played during periods of war.
Homing pigeons were used extensively during World War I. In 1914 during the First Battle of the Marne, the French army had 72 pigeon lofts which advanced with the troops.
During World War II, the United Kingdom used about 250,000 homing pigeons. The Dickin Medal, which is the highest possible animal's decoration for valor, was awarded to 32 pigeons, including the United States Army Pigeon Service's G.I. Joe and the Irish pigeon Paddy.
The UK maintained the Air Ministry Pigeon Section in World War II and for a while thereafter. A Pigeon Policy Committee made decisions about the uses of pigeons. The Head of the section, Lea Rayner, reported in 1945 that:
"We can now train pigeons to 'home' to any object on the ground when air-released in the vicinity... Bacteria might be delivered accurately to a target by this means,"
"With the latest developments of explosives and bacterial science I suggest that this possibility should be closely investigated and watched."
"A thousand pigeons, each with a two ounce explosive capsule, landed at intervals on a specific target might be a seriously inconvenient surprise."
The ideas were not taken up by the committee, and in 1948 the UK military stated that pigeons were of no further use.
However, the UK security service MI5 was still concerned about the use of pigeons by enemy forces. In order to prepare countermeasures, they arranged for 100 birds to be looked after by a civilian pigeon fancier, up until 1950.
Open daily - Part of the Hut 8 exhibition.