Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Strange but true...

I was reading an article about the little known MI8, the signals intelligence branch of MI5 during the war. One of their luminaries, Lord Tredegar, oversaw the monitoring of carrier pigeons. Really, he monitored the flights of carrier pigeons, to prevent their illicit use by the enemy. (It was also a Lord Tredegar that led the Charge of the Light Brigade.)

In order to do this he had a squadron of Peregrine Falcons which hunted down "suspect" pigeons. (I don't know if the falcons asked for ID first.)

Lord Tredegar came up with a plan to bewilder Abwher pigeons by dropping British pigeons from aircraft over Germany. ( Yes, yes, when I read it the obvious problem sprang immediately to mind, but wait.)


The first load of pigeons were unfortunately sucked into the plane's slipstream and "defeathered". For the second attempt the pigeons were dropped inside paper bags. Really. I didn't make this up, only Terry Pratchett could come up with this as fiction.

These pigeons apparently survived their rough treatment and invaded the German pigeon lofts. Of course after a few days R&R they returned to their home lofts in the UK, being homing pigeons and all. (Personally, having been dropped from a plane in a paper bag I think I'd have set up home where-ever I landed.) My source doesn't reveal how many of the returning pigeons were taken out by the friendly fire of the falcons.

Lord Tredegar complained about the failure of his plan to Lady Baden-Powell, who promptly had MI5 lock him up in the Tower of London for revealing top secret government business.

Don't believe me? This link has more information, including the fact that two enemy pigeons were captured and interned for the duration of the war.

3 comments:

Mud in the City said...

That's fabulous!

Did you hear about the design of a bomb during the Cold War? It was to be packed with live chickens in order to prevent it from freezing. Genius! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3588465.stm

Paul Busby said...

Interesting blog. If I may shed a wee bit of a light on a rather bizarre subject. The pigeons weren't actually dropped in a paper bag, but in a small container (red or green depending on the importance of the message!) a tiny parachute opened once the container had dropped below the planes propellers and the pigeon dropped safely to earth.

I have actually just finished writing a biography of the said Lord Tredegar. Needless to say, pigeons (and many other birds) play a quite promient part in his tale!

Paul Busby

slh35661 said...

Who knew? I just thought pigeons crapped on everything. Now I realize they had a mini war of their own going on with Falcons!