8 Facts About Pigeons During WWII

By Stephanie Graves

1. Pigeons have an innate ability to find their way home across hundreds of miles of unfamiliar territory. Studies have shown that they use a combination of visual, auricular, and olfactory cues to accomplish this.

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

2. The Dickin Medal was instituted in Great Britain in 1943 to honor animals in service to military forces and civil defense in wartime. Thirty-two of the fifty-four medals awarded in WWII went to pigeons.

3. King George VI, father of HRH Queen Elizabeth II offered up several pigeons from the royal lofts at Sandringham for use during WWII. Royal Blue was the recipient of a Dickin Medal.

4. Pigeons, dispatched from downed Royal Air Force planes and forward ground units in Europe, Africa, and the Middle and Far East, saved the lives of thousands of military personnel over the course of WWII.

5. Britain dropped thousands of pigeons into Occupied Europe over the course of WWII in the hope that local resistance would use them to communicate details of the German war machine.

6. In 1944, U.S. bra manufacturer Maidenform designed special, sling-like vests that would hold a pigeon against a paratrooper’s chest while the pair parachuted into enemy territory.

7. During WWII, all Royal Air Force bombers and British reconnaissance aircraft had at least one pigeon on board, and Bomber Command discovered that the birds required no protective gear at 35,000 ft, -45°F.

8. Pigeons were used to great effect as a backup to wireless communications in both WWI and WWII by both the Allies and the Axis powers.

Set in a charming British village during World War II, Stephanie Graves’ new charming historical mystery introduces Olive Bright, a spirited young pigeon fancier who finds herself at the heart of a baffling murder…

Though war rages across mainland Europe and London is strafed by German aircraft, the little village of Pipley in Hertfordshire bustles along much as it always has. Adrift since her best friend, George, joined the Royal Air Force, twenty-two-year-old Olive Bright fills her days by helping at her father’s veterinary practice and tending to her beloved racing pigeons. Desperate to do her bit, Olive hopes that the National Pigeon Service will enlist Bright Lofts’ expertise, and use their highly trained birds to deliver critical, coded messages for His Majesty’s Forces.

The strangers who arrive in Pipley are not from the NPS. Instead, Jameson Aldridge and his associate are tied to a covert British intelligence organization known as Baker Street. If Olive wants her pigeons to help the war effort, she must do so in complete secrecy. Tired of living vicariously through the characters of her beloved Agatha Christie novels, Olive readily agrees. But in the midst of her subterfuge, the village of Pipley is dealing with another mystery. Local busybody Miss Husselbee is found dead outside Olive’s pigeon loft. Is the murder tied to Olive’s new assignment? Or did Miss Husselbee finally succeed in ferreting out a secret shameful enough to kill for? With the gruff, handsome Jameson as an unlikely ally, Olive intends to find out–but homing in on a murderer can be a deadly business…