ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology»
  • History of the Modern Era»
  • Twentieth Century History

World Wars: Pigeons in Battle Animal VC Winners.

Updated on February 20, 2016
Winkie. Dicken Medal (Animal VC) awarded for war time service.
Winkie. Dicken Medal (Animal VC) awarded for war time service. | Source

The Dicken Medal The Animals Victoria Cross.

In 1943 the British charity, 'People's Dispensary for Sick Animals' instigated a Medal to be awarded to animals who's actions deserved recognition. At the time the charity was led by Maria Dicken it was through her efforts that the Medal has been accepted as the animals Victoria Cross, which is the highest British award for action under fire.

It is estimated that 200,000 or more pigeons were used by the allies over the two world wars. The US army had a training centre at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. This was known as the Army Pigeon Breeding and Training Centre. It was established 1917 and was disbanded in 1957. It was known that Pigeons could average 60mph in flight and could fly hundreds of miles at a time. They are credited to have saved many thousands of lives over the two world wars.

During World War One the British operated the Carrier Pigeon Service. The birds were used for carrying messages and espionage duties. Pigeons were used on all fronts, with particular success at the Battle of the Somme and the battle at Verdun. It is estimated that 90/95% of all messages were delivered.

Cher Ami.

During world war one the US Army Signals Corp operated approximately 600 pigeons. One in particular was to become famous, we must not forget here that all these birds flew hazardous duties when required, but Cher Ami did something outstanding. Having already undertaken 12 message deliveries. He was given a message by Major Whittlesey who was commanding the''Lost Battalion'' of the 77th Infantry Division. It was October 1918 when 194 American soldiers were cut off and trapped by German forces. There were no working radio's amongst them.There only hope was to release a pigeon. Their message and co-ordinates were placed into the usual small capsule and attached to the leg of Cher Ami. As the major released him to the sky, everyman knew that his life depended upon the Cher Ami, it was now or never.

As if he was aware of the the situation Cher Ami did his very best that day, he flew 25 miles over German Lines to reach the Americans Headquarters. During the flight he was shot through the chest and eye and most of one leg was shot off, but he carried on and delivered his message. The Americans launched an attack on the German positions and after several hours of combat, they broke through to the 194 trapped soldiers. Cher Ami lived on and was awarded the ''Croix de Guerre'' with Palm by the French for his heroic efforts between the forts of Verdun. After his wounds healed ''Cher Ami'' was taken to America, where he died in 1919.

Winkie.

It was a common practice during World War II for R.A.F. Bombers to carry Pigeons, if they ditched in the sea or crash landed they had a possible means of rescue. In Februaury 1942 a damaged Beaufort Bomber had to ditch in the sea. It had been on a mission over Norway and fired on by German Gunners.

The crew managed to get their Pigeon out of the aircraft with them, they were unable to radio an accurate position to base but were able to release 'Winkie'. Their only hope was that she could make it to her Loft in Broughty Ferry, a small town near to Dundee in Scotland, from there their base would be alerted. She made it, her owner found her exhausted in the loft. She had flown for 120 miles without rest. Officers at the base knew where the plane was approximately.By estimating Winkie's speed at 60 mph. then taking in wind speed and direction they launched a rescue and the men were picked up within 30 minutes.

Pigeons were used by all sides during the two wars. The Australian Army had great success in the Pacific Conflict, and awarded two of their Pigeons with the Dicken Medal. Thousands of birds lived and died unrecorded in battle, but many lives were saved by these generally unsung combatants - The Dicken Medal is made of Bronze and reads: 'For Gallantry We Also Serve

WWII Pigeon Found in Chimney.




© 2012 Graham Lee

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 4 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Levertis. Thank you for your visit and extensive comments. Yes, we underestimate so many creatures. The pigeons did and still do a wonderful job. Thank you.

      Graham.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

      Because of this hub, I have renewed respect for Rio, my grandsons' cockatiel. I was thinking about sending him to a relative who has more patience than I because he is so noisy some nights. Otherwise, he is a sweetie and loves to sing-along and be petted.

      I knew about war birds delivering messages, but I have never heard of them being so dutiful and heroic--being shot through, flying on, and surviving! Awesome! I never heard of Cher Ami or any other specific war bird, except a nameless bird (pigeon) found in the chimney of a building not too many years ago. Feathers, bones, and a capsule with a readable coded message were found. I think I read a hub about this find about two weeks ago.

      The next time I see a flock of pigeons painting the underside of a bridge, I won't get too disgusted.

      Thanks for a beautiful story. I will share.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi cashmere. Yes, it is fantastic what these birds can do. Thank you for your visit and comments.

      Graham.

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 5 years ago from India

      What interesting stories! imagine how pigeons worked before technology overtook them.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hello girishpuri. Thank you for your visit and most welcome comment.

      I do appreciate your vote up.

      Graham.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 5 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      An addition to my knowledge about the many uses of pigeons, thanks and voted up

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Thank you snowdrops.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi. UH. Yes I knew that, he was taken back to the US. Then as they say, he was mounted and displayed. Recognition at last I suppose.

      Albion.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      FYI Cheri Ami is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, one leg and all.

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      No worries Graham! Have a nice day :)

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hello snowdrops. Thank you for your visit, I'm glad you liked this hub.

      Thank you for the votes and shared!

      Graham.

    • snowdrops profile image

      snowdrops 5 years ago from The Second Star to the Right

      Very fascinating Graham. So kind of you to share this with us. votes and shared

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Yes, it's incredible what these birds did during those times and in previous wars. I'm glad you have now decided to feed the Pigeons. Best Wishes.

      Graham.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This story is amazing. I have a renewed respect for pigeons. I am a bird feeder, everyday pigeons pick up the dropped seed from the feeder. I will now place seed on the ground for them. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi UH. Thanks for your visit. Cher Ami might well have been shot on being released, as I am sure you know all sides would automatically shoot at pigeons. All sides also employed Peregrine Falcons to down the pigeons, to the Falcons the pigeons were a natural prey.

      Thanks for the vote.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hello GoodLady. Thank you for your visit. Yes heroes all and as I mentioned, so many of them unsung, just like the men who fell in that terrible war. Thank you for the vote.

      Graham.

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi TT. Thanks for your visit. Yes, they have proved their worth in the past.

      Graham.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 5 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Great hub! I wonder what all those animals make of the battlefield-- it must be hell for them as much as it is for us. I think Cher Ami was shot out of the air in sight of the lost battalion, but he/she managed to flutter up and away. Also, I believe all tanks had pigeon holes for sending messages. Voted up, etc.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      How very interesting. What blessed heroes. I love your Hub and the memory of Winkie and Cher Ami. Thank you. Voting up.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      I will no longer look at pigeons as just d@mn birds that cr@p on my truck now. Great story of the bravery of the mighty little war birds. VUM. :)

    • old albion profile image
      Author

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Bill. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Similar stories as these apply thousands of times. Like so many unknown and unsung heroes of the human kind. What's it all for..........

      Graham.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Graham, this is a fascinating hub! I guess I was somewhat aware of the use of pigeons during the war but not to this extent. Great hub, filled with facts that I found very interesting.