With today’s age of technology, it can be easy to forget about how animals paid a pivotal role in the First World War – in some cases they meant the difference between life and death. In the centenary year of World War One, its important to remember how many creatures, including the humble homing pigeon, played a vital role in communications during the conflict.
Pigeons were responsible for sending rescue messages back and forth from soldiers to their base. Over 100,000 birds were used, with an astonishing success rate of 95% getting through to their destination with their message, proving the huge impact they had when other communication systems were still unreliable during this time.
The pigeons would use their natural homing ability to get home, with their magnetic and solar compass following landmarks by aerial recognition and their sense of smell.
Lee Fribbins, representative of Pigeon Racing UK & Ireland, commented: “2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. Not only do we remember the bravery of the soldiers, but we also want to remember the amazing achievements of homing pigeons during this terrible conflict. Pigeons were an invaluable form of communication during the war and the birds literally saved lives – without them, many more men would have perished.”
The homing pigeon is said to be one of the toughest birds on the planet and will voluntarily fly over 20,000 miles a year, which is the equivalent to flying completely around the world at the equator.
Today there are still around 43,000 pigeon fanciers in the UK with Pigeon racing continuing to be a popular pastime around the country. Not only have they served Britain for generations, they have proved their many talents across a wide spectrum and should be treasured for the foreseeable future.
Racing Pigeon Pictorial International has just produced a special, one off magazine dedicated to the commemoration of the work that pigeons carried during the war.
The magazine is available from the Racing Pigeon, Unit G5, The Seedbed Centre, Wyncolls Rd, Colchester, Essex, CO4 9HT. Contact 01206 842221 / [email protected].
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