(c) Crown copyright images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, UK
Catalog numbers WO208/3560 #25, #26, #27
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Between 1941-45 the British conducted Operation Columba. 17,000 pigeons were dropped in small boxes attached to small parachutes into occupied France, Holland, and Belgium. The British hoped those who found the pigeons would send them back with intelligence about the Germans. The pigeons had several advantages over human couriers. A pigeon couldn’t be interrogated. A pigeon could fly silently at night behind enemy lines. A pigeon didn’t need fake documents to proceed through German checkpoints. Perhaps most importantly, a pigeon flies about 40-50 miles per hour. Top speed for a pigeon is 60 miles per hour. The pigeons could deliver intelligence faster than people.
Below are 2 messages. Each message represents someone risking their life. Sending a message with a pigeon was punishable by death under the German occupation.