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World War One – Carrier Pigeon Message Capsules

Today communication is easier than ever, you can talk to someone on the other side of the world or in the room next to you at the click of a button and your options are limitless; from emails to video calls it has never been easier to pass on information. 100 years ago this was not the case, last week’s mystery object is proof of this and has a very interesting and vital role to play throughout both World War One and World War Two.

The pair of World War One carrier pigeon message capsules open to allow a message to be concealed and attached to the leg of a carrier pigeon. These messages were the difference between life and death in many circumstances. Over 100,000 birds were used and 95% of them were successful in delivering messages to their destination. Not only were the pigeons reliable but they were fast, ensuring that they escaped enemy fire and passed messages on quickly due to their homing ability. Carrier Pigeons of the Racing Homer breed were used throughout both wars and 32 of these were presented with the Dickin Medal which is awarded for outstanding acts of bravery or devotion to duty displayed by animals serving within the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units in any theater of war throughout the world.

The image below is a ‘Pigeon Service Map’ from World War One:

From the Keep Archive: Pigeon Service Map – No.2 Platoon, 5th Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment. From Army Book 418. Places include Pheasant Farm and Laud Beek. Scale: 1:20,000. From the collection of Captain C H Clayton,. 5th Battalion The Dorsetshire Regiment, World War One.


Pigeons were also used throughout World War Two, follow this link to read a fantastic piece about ‘Pigeons in War’.

From the Keep Archive: Private Hanson with pigeons at Sialkot, from a collection of photographs and documents belonging to 5725087 Private A H Harding, 1st Battalion the Dosetshire Regiment, World War II and pre-war years.