Pigeons doing service

Discussions on the equipment used by the Axis forces, apart from the things covered in the other sections. Hosted by Juha Tompuri
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stril
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Pigeons doing service

Post by stril » 25 May 2004 00:01

Hello.
There have been very little mentioned about the use of messenger pigeons in this forum, seems like its just stirring jokes when the topics comes up.
If the readers can let me mention some facts and later perhaps add some coments, or hopefully some info it would be great.
Ill ad some numbers and info, not only the german use of pigeons, but also the British and American, the last ones for a overview picture of the use.(Some of the info from W.M.Levi´s "The Pigeon")

The british pigeon breeders gave 200,000 young pigeons to be used in service.
They was to be used in all the military forces, ground, air, naval forces, and intelligence service, the last one dropped 16,554 pigeons over enemy territory, of those 1842 returned with valuable information.They was dropped with some food and instructions, hoping that the finder would write down valuable info and release the pigeon, some of these pigeons came back with valuable information about V1 sites.
In the newspapers in Norway there was ads from the Germans telling about such drops, warning that keeping or dealing with such pigeons was liable for severe punishment, of course a reward was paid if any finder was turning in found pigeon or equipment.
USA Signal Corps got 46,532 pigeons for use in the American services, later that number increased
An example is a pigeon from 209 Signal Pigeon Company(U.S.)/829 Signal Service Battalion that on may 9th 1943 brought back the first news of the surrender Tenth and Fifteenth Panzer Divisions(by two hours)
In 1944 the pigeons of 209 Signal Pigeon Company carried 10,286 messages, and of those 20,202 pigeons used that year, only 266 was lost.
The 278 Signal Pigeon Company was credited of shooting down a Focke Wulf 190 on January 1st 1945 near Chaleon Castle, Holland
When it comes to the allied use of the pigeons there is a lot of info around, books have been written about their services, and both the pigeons and men in that service have got their honour.
When it comes to the German side there is less info to be found, usully its bits and pieces, but its not covered as much as the allied.

In 1939 there was 80,000 organized members of the German pigeon union, the same year the infamous chicken dealer Himmler took command of it, and all pigeon breeders in Germany had to join up or quit, no non members where allowed to have pigeons.
The center of the German Military Pigeon Service was in Spandau, another center but perhaps less known was the SS Pigeon Service school Ma(ä?)rk Brandenburg not far from Berlin.
There is a estimate that there was aprox. 50,000 pigeons used in the German military with 600-800 men caring for them, a number that I think its far to low.
The pigeons was used in most of the occupied countries and in most campaigns, as the fighting was over they builded stationary pigeon lofts as for north as the northern parts Norway.
When invading Holland; Belgium and France they also took over most of the pigeons, those countries was (still is)known to be the hotbed of pigeon racing, securing great amounts of quality pigeons.
The owners was not allowed in the lofts as they was guarded by the Germans. Many fanciers in those countries hide their pigeons out in the country, attics and even caves to avoid their capture, even some killed them, some to avoid capture, som ehad to use them as food.
Most of the Flak positions or artillery positions, camps and signalling stations had pigeons ready for use if the other signal equipment failed.
In one such position(coastal artillery) in Norway there was a regular(daily) release of a pigeon.The man in charge of the pigeons was to be killed as it was tought that the reason for releasing the pigeon had to be important.All preparations was made, but abandoned in the last minutes as the repraisals was tought to be too severe to justifie the killing.
As the allied forces invaded Europe they also captured lots of pigeons used by the Germans, using them alongside their own.In Verviers Belgium they trained more that 1000 captured pigeons. Later as they got in to Germany they also confiscated German civilian lofts, taking use of their pigeons too.

I can go on with small fractions of info about the German pigeons, but perhaps this is enough for the time being.
What im really interested in is if any of the readers have some info, references, photos, links, anything that can be gathered, maybe at some stage there can be enough info to make a article about the subject. For those doing research on the SS, have you read anything about the SS Pigeon Service School ?
ANY info is welcomed.
Regards
stril

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bryson109
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Post by bryson109 » 25 May 2004 02:32

Very interesting, thanks for posting that. :D

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Dan Mouritzsen
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Post by Dan Mouritzsen » 25 May 2004 08:46

Hi

Interesting subject.

These are the first "lanes" ? used by Brieftaubenzug Dänemark 14/2 1944.
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Leo Niehorster
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Post by Leo Niehorster » 25 May 2004 10:57

Please do go on.
Really interesting.

/Leo

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MAX_theHitMan
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Post by MAX_theHitMan » 25 May 2004 17:00

Quite interesting indeed.

It´s also interesting to know the old WWI methods being used on the battlefield in WWII. This subject has been posted before in on other threads before, if you make a search for them.

I know sometimes I (we) joke about certain things about the old battlefield tecniques, but they were sometimes very reliable and these birds proved very effective in saving lives in the field.
Do continue with your research. very informative text you posted Stril. Thanks for the article 8)

Cheers
MAX-theHitMan

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stril
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Post by stril » 25 May 2004 22:36

Hello
Thanks a lot for the answers, and the very good map provided by
Dan Mouritzsen, very interesting.
I have some info about the German use of pigeons in Denmark, ill find it and put it out in the forum.

The old WWI methods was being used in WWII as mentioned, it was because of the knowledge gained in WWI and in the 1870(?) war, and the use at the siege of Paris.
But i dont think im mistaken if i say that the pigeons in WWI had quite some problems compared with those in the next war, but pigeons being used in WWI is also very interesting.
By the way, the oldest living racing pigeon is "Kaiser", born in 1917, captured in a basket during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in 1918, he was brought back to USA and lived in the military lofts at Forth Monmouth, he died late october 1949, its natural to think that some of his offspring was used during the WWII.
As mentioned, ill be back with more info.
regards
stril
P.S. Max, just saw your Adm.Scheer coment... :D good one :lol:

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moses
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Post by moses » 26 May 2004 02:51

I'd love to see a picture of a pigeon with a schutzstaffel logo on it, just for comedy value.

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stril
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Post by stril » 26 May 2004 20:55

Hello
Some notes about the german use of pigeons in Denmark.
As mentioned earlier it was said that the Germans used 50,000 pigeons during the war.
In Denmark they used 15,000, so it seems like the estimate of 50,000 is far to low.
Denmark was in a kind of special situation during the first war years, the way of occupation by the germans wasnt the same as in other countries.
Same goes for the pigeon fanciers, they more or less could continue to have races as before the war, but only inland, and with strict control by german officials.They didnt confiscate pigeons or forced the fanciers to quit, so they depended by their own "homebred"(Spandau ?) pigeons.
Later in the war the danish pigeons held in Jylland(Jutland ?) had to be evacuated, no fanciers was allowed to keep them.
So they moved 6000 pigeons to the Middelfart area, keeping them there to the end of the war.
With 15,000 pigeons stationed/used in Denmark i thinkts its not wrong to say that they must have been used a lot.
One thing that the Germans did in Denmark that its not that usual is that they trained some of their pigeons in certain areas to be a "two way" pigeon. Called that because they lived in one loft, and had their meals in another.
When looking at the map provided by Dan M. you can imagine a pigeon living in Copenhagen being released(hungry) from its loft with a message.
It would fly to its loft in Helsingør to get its food.
Then released again with a new message returning to Copenhagen, speeding up wanting to see its home with its family or kids waiting.
The more stationary lofts had to deliver fresh supplies of pigeons at the stations as they had to be brought to a place to fly back to its home loft.
So if a position was isolated and had two way pigeons they could "easily" keep in touch with other units if other signal equipment was out of use.

A German soldier could with some basic knowledge tend to a few pigeons, but not tend to a stationary loft for a length of time, or a loft with two way pigeons. That had to be skilled pre-war fancier now in the army, using their knowledge to breed the best pigeons available, and maintaining the best of form in the pigeons. Like us humans they have to be in good overall condition and form to perform and do their best.
Notes found in Norway tells that they did keep records when breeding, not allowing the inferior to breed. Just as is done when breeding horses and dogs.
I have no knowledge at the time about what happened to the German pigeons in Denmark, but in Norway some was taken over by Norwegian fanciers and they was doing very good in hot competitions after the war, some of them was known to do very good under tough conditions. Perhaps its was the same way in Denmark ?
I add a picture i took a year ago in a private museum in Norway, the basket is a German backpack for 6 pigeons. One room for each pigeons, with lids and cups for water and food.
This particular basket was used in Denmark during the war, and was a gift from a Danish fancier to the museum.
As a sideline it can be mentioned that the danish resistance also made use of pigeons during the war.
Still digging in my notes and papers, any interesting being added.
Regards
stril

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stril
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Post by stril » 14 Nov 2005 20:25

Hello
In the Luftwaffe section SES mentioned the use of pigeons as spies, gathering info about the german radar sites.
When looking for some info about that i found some additional info about the german use of pigeons. Ill add some of it here.
The moderator must give me notice if the use is "not fair"
The following are " cutouts" from a article in the Racing Pigeon Pictorial no.77, may 1977, "War of Little Wings, a Pigeon fancier´s Wartime Memoirs", by H.C.Woodman
The german military Pigeon Service was very mobile and very discreet, their mobile lofts very well hidden. When going up to the front line the German soldier pigeoneer did not carry very eleborate equipment. On his back he carried by a body harness a miniature two storeyed pigeon loft, capable of carrying at least twelve pigeons. The German way gave the pigeon even in the firing zone the opporunity to stamp about, pick up their corn from the floor of the cage.


The same article has also some info about the use of those German pigeons, a German general captured in a Normandy town, betrayed by the pigeons showing their way to his location. Pigeons flying from Scilly Island to France,agents in Irland making use of them, also mentioned them being seen in use in Caen, Pont L. Eveque, Lisuex, Rouen and Le Havre. The last one has a longer story to it, i add some of it. I dont know what happened at Le Havre, but mass bombing by RAF is used by the writer.
On the morning of August 5., it was reported by a survey section, that pairs of pigeons were seen flying on our zero line into Le Havre. All where seen heading slightly east of the port. At 2.P.M I was instructed to take a pary of men and make a thorough search of numerous farms along this zero line, but we where were unsuccsessful in locating any birds or containers.
The RAF began its initial run over the target area at 7.30 p.m and the birds were still going in, even as the first bomb exploded throwing up huge pillars of smoke. Evetually, they were beaten back by walls of smoke and fire, at the end at one hour there were a score of birds flying madly in circles just like a kit of startled youngsters. We then instructed riflemen to shoot as many of them as possible, but owing to the haze and falling darkness, they made very difficult targets, and our kills where doubtful.

The writer also mention the birds still coming in at dawn, and the huge number of birds being ivolved, and he is sure that there must have been a score of mobile lofts being used.

Another source may give a clue of how many pigeons the German had i certain areas. In Verviers in Belgium the 282 Signal Pigeon Company(US) took over ten of the largest civilian lofts.(these lofts was in control by the germans, with german guards at the lofts, and german soliers/fanciers supervising breeding, feeding etc. Coment by me), in addition over a thousand captured German birds were also trained there. This coming from W.Levi, "The Pigeon"
regards
stril

Bill 13
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Post by Bill 13 » 15 Nov 2005 04:23

From the for what it's worth files...
70&71 from Graphic Action Series (75%sure)
HP1 from German Military Combat Dress.Chris Ellis,Almark
Bill
:roll:
"Demonstration and Experimental Battalion for Carrier Pigeons of the Waffen SS
(Lehr-und Versuchs-Abteilung für Brieftauben der Waffen SS) at Bernau bei Berlin Wkr III
SS-Oa.Spree. Conducts courses for pigeoniers (Brieftaubenmiser) and is the replacement unit for all pigeon specialist personnel of the Waffen SS"
Source:Editor W.Victor Madej Game Pub Co.
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stril
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Post by stril » 15 Nov 2005 18:26

Hello Bill
Thanks for posting those pictures, very interesting.
regards
stril

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Valtoro
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Post by Valtoro » 04 Jan 2006 13:13

Some pictures from the Nachrichtenfibel regarding the use of mail carrier pigeons. (Mainly Reichswehr period)
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stril
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Post by stril » 05 Jan 2006 10:39

Hello
Thanks for those pictures.
regards
stril

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stril
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Post by stril » 16 Mar 2006 16:49

Hello
I add a comic drawing. Cant remeber the source(pre 1990 pigeon magazine), ill remove it if wanted.
regards
stril

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SES
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Post by SES » 16 Mar 2006 18:09

Hi stril,
Wonderful cartoon. Wish I could post on my WEB-site.
bregds
SES

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