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Carrier Pigeons (World War I)

carrier pigeons world war one carrier pigeons are one of the unsung heroes of the first world war their role in delivering messages to the front line was crucial even though wired communication was in wide use by that time in cases when communication wires were destroyed by artillery fire cut by enemy soldiers or when a unit advanced to a position in front of the prepared communication line soldiers were using carrier pigeons to deliver messages to their bases for that purpose a special breed of pigeons were used the racing homer this breed has been developed selectively for racing since the middle of the 19th century because of their exquisite speed and the ability to navigate to their original position these pigeons were used during the war to deliver messages between units on the front lines back to base each unit on the front kept one or more pigeons in the loft in case of emergency the soldier would write a paper message in a small tube attached to the pigeon’s leg and released the bird into the sky using his homing ability the pigeon flew back to its prepared coop back at base once inside a bell sounded as a sign for the soldier to pick up the message the job of delivering messages was not easy at all once in the air with the message attached to their legs carrier pigeons became a target for enemy soldiers who tried to shoot them down another way of disrupting carrier pigeon communications was by using hawks who are natural predators of the pigeon the germans deployed a vast number of hawk handlers to the north sea to attack carrier pigeons flying to britain because they posed a great threat to pigeons the british authorities even launched a cull on hawks in southern england to protect the vital carrier pigeons despite the all-out chase for them carrier pigeons were extremely successful in doing their jobs 95 of carrier pigeons managed to deliver their messages to the desired destination and more than 100 000 of them were used during the war however since they were trained to fly back to their home lofts carrier pigeons were intended to be used only for delivering messages from the front lines back to base these hero birds did their jobs even in the harshest weather conditions and for extremely long distances carrying on their mission even when wounded the persistence of these birds and their significance can be seen in the story of sharami cherami french for dear friend was a carrier pigeon presented by the british to the u.s 77th infantry division on october 3rd 1918 more than 200 soldiers of the division fell into a trap behind german lines without food or ammunition without knowing their actual location allied artillery even started to drop shells on their position american soldiers desperately needed to establish a connection with their base in order to stop the artillery fire the first two carrier pigeons sent out were shot down by the germans and cheramie was the last chance for the desperate soldiers the american soldiers attached a message to a canister on sharami’s left leg as soon as she went into the air a whole barrage of fire was set on the bird after just a few seconds sharami was shot down to the ground but she managed to rise up again and fly away to base once she arrived at the base and delivered the message the soldiers noticed that she was shot through the chest had one eye missing and a leg hanging by a tendon the message attached to the canister on cheremy’s left leg said we are along the road parallel to 276.4 our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us for heaven’s sake stop it the message that cherimi delivered saved the lives of 194 american soldiers as a reward cheramie was awarded the french quadragare medal after she recovered cheremi was sent to the united states by boat with general john jay pershing seeing her off carrier pigeons were not only used to deliver messages during the war the germans were attaching small time-delayed cameras to pigeons in order to conduct aerial photo reconnaissance of the battlefield even when radio communication was introduced carrier pigeons remained an important source of delivering messages their significance is clear in the fact that under the british defense of the realm act anyone who was interfering with carrier pigeons was facing a fine of 100 pounds or six months in prison watch our other videos to learn more get your copy of simple history world war one available on amazon now thank you guys for all your support on the simple history youtube channel if you enjoy it please consider visiting our patreon page there you can show us your support for the channel by donating and make a huge difference in what we’re able to create for you plus you can get early access on upcoming videos so let’s keep it growing and thank you for being part of this amazing community
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IeiBvx9zOs

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