Saturday, July 25, 2015

The War of the Birds-how pigeons were used for WW2 espionage

"The War of the Birds" is a 48 minute documentary on youtube.  It was produced by Atlantic Productions and first appeared on Animal Planet.  Here is the link to watch it:

It covers how lives were saved at the Battle of Arnhem because of a message delivered by a pigeon, how pigeons were used for espionage by the Allies and by the Germans, and how thousands of pigeons were used on D-Day.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Australian John Appleton who served with British Royal Air Force explains procedure for releasing pigeons from downed aircraft

Here is the description of John Appleton from the Imperial War Museum site:

Australian served as apprentice with RAF Aircraft Apprentice Scheme in GB, 1940-1942; aircraftman and NCO served with RAF Coastal Command in GB, 1942-1943; NCO served with No 210 Sqdn RAF Coastal Command in GB, 1943-1944 including operations over Atlantic and Arctic and sinking of U-347; served with No 131 Operational Training Unit RAF Coastal Command in Northern Ireland, 1944-1945; officer served with No 4 Operational Training Unit RAF Coastal Command in Northern Ireland, 1944-1945

On reel 12 of this interview conducted by the Imperial War Museum, he explains the procedure for how the 2 pigeons carried on board RAF aircraft in WWII were released.  Each station for Coastal Command had a Corporal Pigeon Keeper, 2 Aircraft Pigeon Keepers, and 100 or more pigeons.

Here is the link to listen:

This interview is not about how pigeons delivered intelligence in WWII, but it is a detailed account of how pigeons were used by the RAF.

British War Office photo of commando signallers with pigeon in 1945

The British Army in Italy 1945

Commando signallers prepare to release a pigeon, Lake Commacho area, April 4, 1945

Imperial War Museum Collection, originally from the War Office Second World War Official Collection

Thursday, July 23, 2015

WW2 War Pigeons-Spies and Lifesavers

World War II Military History

Our men gave first consideration to the birds.  In Africa, if there was but one cup of water available, the birds drank before the men.

-Lieutenant Charles A. Koestar

If we hadn't had the pigeons during the war, I'm not saying we wouldn't have won the war, but they helped a hell of a lot.
        - Colin Hill, Pigeon Historian, Bletchley Park

“…it is still humbling to consider the significance of so much of the information, photographs, diagrams and even film carried by the birds from hostile or occupied territory to our own.  Often of immense strategic and tactical value, data on enemy positions, likely actions and much information pertaining to specific German installations-including the V-1 and V-2 rocket bases-came to be known through nothing more than the rapid and accurate flight of small birds carrying even smaller capsules containing brief but significant notes of quite immeasurable value.”
David Long is writing about pigeons delivering intelligence from German occupied countries during World War II in his book The Animals VC.
Here is a story from a World War II veteran about how a pigeon saved his life and the lives of the other soldiers on his mission on D-Day:

“We were to destroy four German hundred-and-ten-millimeter siege guns.  We had trained a year for this mission.  We were to put the guns out of action, which we did.  But we were unsure of our communications and had to be sure to get a message to a naval cruiser that the guns had been destroyed.  So our signaler turned to this poor pigeon that had been cooped up in a little canister for four days.  He tied a message to the bird’s leg and let him go.  But he didn’t go gracefully.  The little guy staggered about and then flew toward Cannes in the wrong direction.  Personally, I didn’t know much about pigeons, and I could hardly believe that we were putting our lives in this bird’s hands.  But once the Duke got his bearings, away he went and delivered our message to the gunship. If it weren’t for that bird, we would have been bombed, and I might not be here today.”
This story appears in Andrew D. Blechman’s book Pigeons.

If you want to see World War II veteran John Britton, 9thParachute Battalion, 1942-46, tell the story of how the pigeon the Duke of Normandy saved his life on D-Day, you can see him by watching the documentary “The War of the Birds” on youtube.  Towards the end of the documentary the narrator says, “Many consider pigeons as nothing more than vermin, but those who remember the role they played in World War II afford them the respect due to heroes.”

The purpose of this post is to give busy people a quick way to learn about the World War II pigeons.  I am just a radio producer who is still learning, therefore I have included facts from experts on World War II pigeons.  Some of these experts appear in “The War of the Birds.”   My contact info is: Jennifer Spangler,


John Hughes-Wilson is a full time author and broadcaster specializing in
military-historical and intelligence matters. He has commentated widely on
military and intelligence subjects. In addition to being an Associate Fellow
of RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) and member of the RUSI Journal's
Advisory Board, John is also an Archives Bi-Fellow of Churchill College
Cambridge In addition, he is a specialist consultant to the United Nations, 
European Union, MOD, universities, and businesses. His work's include: 
Puppet Masters: The Secret History of Intelligence (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2004), 
Military Intelligence Blunders, 1999 [new edition, 2004], Blindfold and Alone 
with Cathryn Corns), 2001 and Editor, with international experts, 
of Nuclear Strategy for the 21st Century, 1996.
John Hughes-Wilson retired in 1994 as a Colonel on NATO's International
Political Staff [Brussels]. His military career also included posts: Head of
Policy Section and Senior British Intelligence Officer, SHAPE. [Mons] and
Intelligence, Counter Terrorism, Special Forces. UK/ NATO appointments,
Command and Staff.
The acclaimed intelligence books - The Puppet Masters
and A Brief History of the Cold War: The Hidden Truth About How Close We
Came to Nuclear are both available from Eye Spy.

Professor of Animal Behavior, Department of Zoology
Publications: 80 |Citations: 1260
Collaborated with  102 co-authors from 1986 to 2012 | Cited by 1689 authors



Jennifer Spangler


World War II Pigeon Info from “The War of the Birds”
Pigeons were used as spies.  A division of British Intelligence was set up to handle all pigeon espionage matters.  This was MI14.  MI14 worked with MI5 and MI6 to gather intelligence from resistance workers in German occupied territories.

Pigeons were dropped from bombers traveling at 150 mph into the occupied territories to be retrieved by resistance workers.

The British Royal Air Force required all bombers to carry out their missions with 2 pigeons on board.  The pigeons would be used to send messages if the radios failed.

When the Americans joined the war effort they contributed 52,000 pigeons.

Anyone in the German occupied territories found with a pigeons which couldn’t be accounted for was tried and then shot.

During the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 it was imperative to maintain radio silence to deceive the Germans.  Thousands of pigeons were used during the D-Day invasion.

The Germans trained squadrons of peregrine falcons to kill pigeons.  The Germans also positioned snipers along the coast to shoot down the pigeons.

In 1934, after Hitler came to power, the carrier pigeon was put under the protection of the government.

German spies infiltrated England and used pigeons to send intelligence back to Germany.  It took those pigeons 12-13 hours to fly back to Germany.

The top flying speed for a pigeon is 60 mph.  The American pigeon GI Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and saved the lives of 1000 British soldiers and the population of a town in northern Italy.

World War II Pigeon Info from Peter Hawthorne’s book The Animal Victoria Cross-The Dickin Medal
In 1944 William of Orange flew 260 miles in 4 hours and 25 minutes.  This is an average speed of 61 mph.  During training with MI14, William flew 68 miles in 59 minutes.

When the Germans occupied Holland in 1941, they were afraid of pigeons as a form of communication.  All Dutch homing pigeons were killed.

In 1991 to honor the achievements by the pigeon Mary of Exeter, the Lord Mayor of Exeter unveiled a plaque for Mary near the War Memorial.  There is a mosaic in Colwick Street celebrating everything pigeons did during the war.

Spy Pigeons

“Spies, message things,” is the answer Catherine Bradley, British private and NCO, who served as a driver with the Auxiliary Territorial Service in Great Britain from 1941-45,  gives when asked in an Imperial War Museum interview to identify the purpose of the pigeons it was her job to deliver to the train stations in the middle of the night.  Bradley explains in this interview conducted in 1993, that in the early hours of the morning she would drive her truck to an office in Savile Street also known as Savile Row.  There she loaded pigeons into her truck and was joined by two soldiers to accompany her to train stations such as Waterloo Station.  Her return to her barracks through London took place at around 2 or 3 in the morning.  Because of the doodlebugs, the German V-1 flying bombs also known as buzz bombs, she often had to take shelter underneath her truck to stay alive.  After Bradley says, “Spies, message things,” the interviewer clarifies that she is referring to message pigeons.  Bradley concurs and adds that the whole thing was very hush hush and she was never supposed to talk about the deliveries of the pigeons.  It is interesting to remember in the context of Bradley’s remarks, that David Long, the documentary “The War of the Birds,” and others have credited the spy pigeons with delivering intelligence on the V-1 and V-2 installations.

The pigeon discussion is on reel 2.  The catalogue number for this audio file is 13425.

The spy pigeons were dropped into German occupied territories in small cages, cardboard cages, or canisters attached to small parachutes.  They were retrieved by resistance workers who would send intelligence back with the pigeon.  Paratroopers were dropped in with pigeons in cages or slings.  These agents would gather information and then send it back with the pigeon.   The spy pigeons also were dropped from planes with messages for agents or resistance workers.

One such pigeon was Searchlight Pied.  Searchlight Pied was retrained not to fly back to a base or loft.  Searchlight Pied delivered messages to agents in France using a unique skill.  According to Peter Hawthorne in The Animal Victoria Cross-The Dickin Medal, “She was carried by aircraft from Britain to a point within 7 miles of the resistance forces or an agent, from here a beam would be activated from the ground and the bird released.  Once flying she would ignore the instinct to home into Staines and follow the beam down to the ground.  She would not be misled by any decoy lights because she had been trained to recognize the guiding beam by its volume of light.” Her learned skill of responding to this beam of light allowed agents and resistance workers to receive intelligence and helped them to avoid being found by the Germans.

Why weren’t radios used to communicate from the occupied territories?  Here is an answer from David Long’s book The Animals’ VC:

“Too often all we know is that in advanced observation posts where terrain or proximity to enemy lines made it impossible to string an aerial or use a radio, towards the end of the war there was still nothing to beat a well-trained pigeon.  Even where equipment could be used, secret radio operators took time to train and were too often captured and killed if they stayed in one place or transmitted for too long.  But carried in a basket, in a sling under the arm, or even in a patrol member’s shirt or sock, a bird would often get through when nothing else stood a chance.”

The video documentary “The War of the Birds” tells how the British created “undercover pigeons.”  Two German pigeons were captured over the North Sea.  The German message capsules from these pigeons were duplicated.  English pigeons were marked with labels like the German pigeons and were fitted with the replica German message capsule and rings.  These pigeons were dropped into German territory where they would infiltrate the local pigeon population.  When discovered by the Germans, the Germans would use the pigeons to send their own messages.  The pigeons would fly back to their home lofts in England. The messages would be intercepted providing crucial intelligence about German operations.  Many of these messages carried by the undercover pigeons were in code.  They were decoded at Bletchley Park, where the Enigma code was decoded.

16,554 pigeons were trained in three and a half years to be used as messengers in Holland, Belgium, Denmark, and France.  Where did these pigeons come from?  Some were trained at Milbourne Wood Farm, owned by Sir Ernest Debenham.  The Army Pigeon Service took control of this farm and used it as a base to which pigeons carrying messages would fly back.  Signalman William Streeter has recounted how he trained                                                                     
secret agents to handle pigeons.  According to Peter Hawthorne, “The whole operation                                                               
was, and remains, highly classified.”                                                                

Lady Manningham-Buller raised pigeons for the War Office in her Victorian house in Oxfordshire. Her house is known now as a secret World War II pigeon spy base. After the pigeons would fly back to her house with messages, people from the War Office would arrive on motorbikes at the house to collect the messages.  Lady Manningham-Buller’s daughter is Eliza Manningham-Buller who ran MI5 from 2002-2007.

Bletchley Park, where the Enigma Code was decoded, had a classified pigeon loft in 1938.

Champion pigeon breeder Jack Lovell appears in the video documentary, “The War of the Birds.”  In the documentary and in several newspaper interviews in 2008, Lovell revealed that he had bred pigeons during the war after asked to do so by MI5.  He was not able to discuss this until then because of the Official Secrets Act.  The pigeons were trained at XX Lofts, a secret loft near Dover.                                                               

The Special Air Service used pigeons for espionage.  In 2004 previously classified
documents about some of the espionage operations were made available to the public. 
Operation Gibbon in 1942 successfully established a secret pigeon network in Belgium.  Pigeons were flown in by planes called the Tempsford Taxis, after an RAF station in Bedforshire.  Pigeons were dropped in by parachute.  According to David Long, Warrant Officer John Charrot DFC of 138 Squadron reported years after his retirement that his squadron alone delivered 39,000 containers of pigeons and 1000 agents.

In Roderick Bailey’s Forgotten Voices of the Secret War, Charrot is identified as Pilot Officer, John Charrot, Halifax Observer/bomb-aimer, 138 (SD) Squadron, RAF.  Here is a statement from Charrot: “We had a chute you could use as a toilet, a little chute, and we had these bundles of leaflets.  It was usually the rear-gunner’s job or the wireless operator’s, they would tear the string off them and push them down the chute and they would float away.  The pigeons we were much more careful about.  They had their own little parachute, they were in a little cage made of cardboard and they had food and some water in there, and we used to try and find a nice quiet spot for these so they would be alright.  We would drop them and watch them go down and sometimes quite useful information came back, I gather.  We didn’t see that of course.  But there’d be a little pencil in this cage and a piece of rice paper and they were supposed to get hold of these pigeons, you see, write a message and put it round their legs and send them back.”  Here is a statement from Squadron Leader Frank Griffiths, Halifax pilot, 138 (SD) Squadron, RAF: “Sometimes you’d get terribly rude answers: the messages were from the Germans, they’d found them.  Some, I’m jolly certain, got eaten in places where food was short.”

In an interview conducted in 1991, Frank Griffiths revealed that sometimes the men doing the pigeon drops did become aware of what intelligence had been delivered by the pigeons.  The pigeons were dropped in country areas, hopefully to be found by civilians who would then send back information.  He explains that they didn’t drop the pigeons in city areas because people wouldn’t pick them up.  They were afraid to be seen with a pigeon by the Germans, or a whistleblower. Griffiths discusses a message from Argentan, a small town about 10 miles inland from the Normandy Beaches.  The message, sent anonymously, said that the baker in the town was a collaborator.  It also contained a description of a telephone exchange being constructed.  After the agents on the ground confirmed the information, Griffiths says they “took out” the baker.  He says they “took out” the telephone exchange, which was also a headquarters for coastal defenses, just before D-Day.  Griffiths adds, “We got a lot of good information on the pigeons.” Here is the link to listen to the interview:
This is on reel 2 and the file is catalogue number 12270

According to David Long, in September 2011, the SAS published a secret diary.  It contained information about a plan to kidnap Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.  Ultimately, a report revealed that it was decided it would be easier to kill Rommel in France.  In the report it says the ‘…killing could be reported by pigeon.’                                                              

Joe Razes writes about how the US Military used pigeons to deliver intelligence in his article “Pigeons of War”:  “…they returned with news on the location and strength of enemy troops, gun positions, pending attacks, traffic conditions and other vital data.  Pigeons were the only means of communication for some advanced observation posts where terrain or proximity to enemy lines made it impossible to string wire or use a radio.  Carried in baskets, in a sling under the arm, or in a patrol member’s shirtfront, the birds were released under fire, and most succeeded in getting through.”

Some other audio from the Imperial War Museum

You can find these interviews by going to the Imperial War Museum homepage.  Select Collections and Research.  Then you can search in keyword by name.

Ashley Martin Greenwood, British Officer, reel 3, discusses sending two pigeons with intelligence on a German gun battery.  Both are shot.  One pigeon dies and the other pigeon, although wounded, makes it back.

Michael Fortune Cleghorn, British Officer, reel 4, discusses having no radio and using 500 pigeons to communicate; tells story about David Niven sending a message by pigeon.

Leonard John Barcham, British Officer, reel 3, discusses use of pigeons for distress signals and the navigator who checked his route for approval from a pigeon.

United States Pigeon Service

“Our men gave first consideration to the birds,” reported Lieutenant Charles A. Koestar.  “In Africa, if there was but one cup of water available, the birds drank before the men.”

The US Pigeon Service was started for World War I in 1917.  The onset of World War II brought a significant need for thousands of pigeons.  The military requested owners of pigeon lofts to register their lofts.  When GIs reported for service, they were asked to indicate whether they had experience with pigeons.  Those who did could receive an assignment to work with pigeons.

On January 9, 1942 the Signal Corps asked pigeon fanciers to contribute their pigeons to the war effort.  According to Joe Razes in “Pigeons of War:”  “Pigeon clubs responded overwhelmingly to the call.  Fanciers contributed the offspring of champions and sometimes even the champions themselves.  Some of these prize-winning birds had won races that covered more than 600 miles in a day.  Donated birds arrived by the thousands; one shipment from New York City consisted of 52,000.”

The pigeon service had 4 breeding bases.  These were located in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Fort Benning, Georgia, and Capt Crowder, Missouri.  Expertise in how to breed fast pigeons who could fly hundreds of miles had improved greatly since World War I.  Joe Razes writes, “While a World War I pigeon could fly about 200 miles in one flight, the World War II birds could easily double that distance and some could travel 600 miles.”

The pigeons proved to be invaluable and the military expanded the pigeon service.  54,000 pigeons served in the pigeon service along with 3,000 enlisted men and 150 officers.  96% of the messages delivered by the pigeons reached their destination.  These messages included intelligence sent from behind enemy lines, requests for rescue from plane crashes, and requests for reinforcements on the battlefield.  The US military estimates that the pigeons delivered 30,000 messages during the war.  Here’s another passage from Joe Razes’ article “Pigeons of War:”

“As the war progressed, the army decided it needed to utilize pigeon communication more in its airborne operations.  It had a special vest developed- a sling-like contraption made by a brassiere company-that enabled a paratrooper to carry a pigeon on his chest or side.  On the ground, the paratrooper could adjust the vest to carry the pigeon on his back.  The first paratrooper pigeon was a male named Thunderbird. He also was the first pigeon to make 10 jumps from a plane, and he received a pair of miniature wings from Colonel James Coutts at the Fort Benning parachute school.  Later, the army developed a special cage and special parachute for dropping pigeons from aircraft to supply isolated troops with a means of communication.  The device was also used to drop thousands of pigeons over the countryside during the June 1944 Normandy Invasion.  French civilians were
asked to send back detailed information about German installations and troop                                                              

Pigeons demonstrated resiliency, adaptability, and the ability to handle unfamiliar situations and still deliver their messages.  Pigeons could travel in planes at 35,000 feet without the oxygen masks needed by the men.  Even though the temperature was typically 45 degrees below zero and the men wore heated suits, the pigeons only had to fluff up their feathers to create insulation against the cold.  Pigeons were dropped into the slipstream from bombers flying at 375 mph.  Pigeons were placed headfirst into a paper bag with a slit in it.  The bag opened and the pigeon would fly the rest of the way.

One of the most famous American pigeons is GI Joe.  He flew 20 miles in 20 minutes with a message asking Allied Support Command to cancel the bombing of the Italian town of Colvi Vecchia.  1000 soldiers in the British 56th Infantry Brigade had entered the town after the Germans had unexpectedly withdrawn.  Their radios didn’t work and they had to hope that GI Joe could deliver the message by flying 60 mph.  GI Joe delivered the message, the raid was cancelled, and the lord mayor of London awarded the Dickin Medal for Gallantry to GI Joe.  You can see footage of GI Joe receiving his medal using this link:

Pigeons were used by the marines, the army, the navy, and the coast guard.  Pigeons don’t fly at night.  They don’t like to fly over water.  The World War II pigeons were trained to fly at night.  They had to fly at night to avoid being shot by the Germans or attacked by the hawks and falcons deployed by the Germans to kill pigeons.  The pigeons had to fly many of their missions over water, very often over the English Channel to deliver intelligence to Bletchley Park.  Pigeons flew dozens of missions and some flew 100 or more missions.

Distances Flown by Some World War II Pigeons When They Were Delivering Messages
All of these pigeons won the Dickin Medal for Gallantry

Billy   250 miles in a gale force snowstorm; sent from a crashed bomber  1942

Paddy   230 miles in 4 hrs 50 minutes; average speed 46 mph; sent during the D-Day Invasion  1944

Princess   500 miles across open sea; the message she carried still remains classified.  1943

Gustav   150 miles in 5 hrs 16 minutes with a headwind of 30 mph.  1944

The Flying Dutchman   Sent by agents dropped behind enemy lines on 3 missions between 150-250 miles.  1944

White Vision   60 miles in fog, headwind of 25 mph, visibility 100 yards; sent from bomber crashed at sea.  1942

Navy Blue   200 miles; when she was released she was attacked by a predator but she delivered her message in spite of severe injuries.  1944

DD43Q879   46 miles in 30 minutes; sent by Marines under attack by Japanese.  This pigeon flew through heavy fire.  1944

Tyke   100 miles; sent from bomber crashed in sea, visibility so poor air sea rescue was impossible.  After his message was received with details of their location it was possible to rescue the 4 man crew.  1943

DD43T139   40 miles in 50 minutes in heavy rain and high winds; sent from a crashed cargo ship.  1945

Winkie  129 miles while she was covered in oil;sent from bomber crashed in sea.  1942
Dutch Coast  288 miles in 7 hrs and 30 minutes in adverse weather, average speed 38 mph; sent from bomber crashed into North Sea.  1942

Ruhr Express   300 miles at night.  1945

Cologne   480 miles; she returned to RAF Bottesford with a broken breastbone after missing for 2 weeks.  Cologne flew more 100 missions before she was injured.  1942

All Alone   481 miles; she was dropped by parachute with an agent into Vienne, France.  She reached her loft in less than 13 hrs, average speed 37 mph.  1943

William of Orange   260 miles in 4 hrs and 25 minutes, average speed 61 mph; sent from Arnhem, Holland.  When William was training with MI14 (the pigeon secret service), he flew 68 miles in 59 minutes, average speed slightly less than 68 mph.  1944

Per Ardua  1000 miles in 12 days; this pigeon was sent to Gibralter to serve in the pigeon service, however, she was homesick.  She flew back to her loft in Gillingham.  Her flight in 12 days beat the British record for a 1000 mile flight.  She was allowed to stay home, was awarded the Dickin Medal, and bred many fantastic racing pigeons.  1944

                       Paddy & Gustav,  Dickin Medal Winners 1944

Gustav was named as the greatest pigeon to serve his country by the Imperial War Museum.  In 2009 Paddy’s fast flight on D-Day was honored near his hometown in Ireland.  A plaque was placed on the harbor wall at Carnlough.  A flock of pigeons did a fly-past.  At the ceremony, one of Paddy’s trainers, 88 year old John McMullan explained how he took Paddy out in a submarine in the Irish Sea to make sure Paddy could find his way back.
Link to see footage of the pigeons receiving their medals:



American Pigeon Museum website history page

Bailey, Roderick, in association with the Imperial War Museum.  Forgotten Voices of the Secret War, An Inside History of Special Operations During the Second World War.  Ebury Press, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, 2008.

Bailey, Roderick, in association with the Imperial War Museum.  Forgotten Voices of D-Day.  Ebury Press, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, 2009.

Blechman, Andrew.  Pigeons.  Grove Press, 2006.

Corera, Gordon.  “Spy pigeon secrets of former head of MI5 Eliza  Manningham-Buller.”  BBC News UK website, 29 December, 2013.

Dyke, Freddy.  Various postings of his memories of the National Pigeon Service and of Word War II archived on the BBC website as WW2 People’s War.

Hawthorne, Peter.  The Animal Victoria Cross-The Dickin Medal.  Pen & Sword Military, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books, Ltd., 2012.

Long, David.  The Animals’ VC.  Preface Publishing, an imprint of The Random House Group Limited, 2012.

Pigeons in Combat.  This is the website for The Pigeoneers, a documentary featuring Colonel Clifford A. Poutre, Chief Pigeoneer US Army Signal Corps, 1936-43.  The film was written, directed, and produced by Al Croseri and released in 2012.  Poutre is 103.

Racing Pigeon Pictorial International World War I Tribute, #528, 2014.

Razes, Joe.  “Pigeons of War.”  America in WWII, August 2007.

Royal Pigeon Racing Association website pigeon history page

Sleight, Christopher.  “The pigeon that saved a World War II bomber crew.”  BBC News Tayside and Central Scotland website, 23 February, 2012.

“The War of the Birds.”  Video documentary posted on youtube.
Winterman, Denise.  “SAS war diary: The SAS secret hidden since World War II.”
BBC News website, Sept. 23, 2011.

Pictures from footage of pigeons receiving medals used with permission from British Pathe Ltd.
Link to see footage of Gustav and Paddy receiving their medals at British Pathe Ltd.:

One More Story

This is Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway, Commanding Officer, 9th Battalion, Parachute Regiment, concluding his account of the successful destruction of the Merville gun battery on D-Day.  This operation commenced at 2:15am.
“By five o’clock we had completely occupied the battery.  We had taken all the casements, we had taken twenty-two prisoners and there were a lot of German casualties, killed and wounded, in the casements, and I was able to send a success signal.  I had no radio to send a success signal but I lit a yellow signal flare and an RAF plane went over, saw it, and waggled its wings.  And my signals officer, unbeknown to me, had got a carrier pigeon with him, brought in all the way from England in his airborne smock, and he tied a victory message around its leg and sent it off.
Then the problem was to get out.  I went round the casements and I told all the troops to get out but we didn’t know how to get through the minefield so I told the prisoners to show me the way.  They refused.  So I said, ‘Well, OK, we’re going to make you walk forward and if you don’t show us the way through the mines we’re just going to start shooting the ground and you’re going to lose your feet and maybe the mines will go up too.’  So they showed us the way and we got out.
I went and sat by the cavalry near the battery and I told everybody to take up defensive positions such as we were able to.  Because, out of the 150 men that we went in with, all ranks, there were only 75 of us left standing on our feet.  The others had been killed or wounded.”

from Forgotten Voices of D-Day

R.V. Jones tells of pigeon who delivered detailed and copious intel on German radar in 1943

In July 1943 British Bomber Command bombed the German city of Hamburg.  During these bombings Window was used to deceive the Germans about the position of British bombers.  British bombers were still shot down, but at a lower percentage rate than in previous Hamburg bombings, thanks to Window.  The British could listen to the radio telephony between the German nightfighters and the control stations at the ‘Y Service’ station at Kingsdown.  They could overhear the German frustration caused by Window.
R.V. Jones was a scientist who served in the Official Intelligence Service, specifically in Air Intelligence.  In his book Most Secret War he writes:

“It would obviously be an encouragement to our bomber crews if we could let them know something of the German reaction….German reactions, such as those we were gaining from Enigma, could not be broadcast to our crews; but fortunately a heavily-laden and very gallant pigeon arrived at its home base, having been dropped by Bomber Command somewhere in North France with my usual questionnaire.  It had been picked up by a Frenchman who had been present in one of the German nightfighter control stations, perhaps as a cleaner, and when he saw there wasa question about radar he had clearly delighted in describing the events one night in the station at le Croix Caluyau as he had witnessed them.  I have never seen a pigeon carrying such a profuse message.  It ended with the exclamation by the German Station Commander, who had spent the night trying to intercept seven hundred separate bombers without being able to locate one: ‘He would rather be attacked by a hundred bombers than submit to that torrent of paper again!’  Since no source could be compromised by this message, we were able to circulate it to Bomber Command, where the Commander’s comment was widely appreciated.”

This passage comes at the end of the Hamburg chapter.

Here is a link to a bio for R.V. Jones:

Here is the link to documentary Secret War-The Battle of the Beams on youtube: