Hero Pigeons: Feathered Friends
by Squeaker, Ottawa, Ontario

Squeaker the Carrier Pigeon

My relative Beachcomber served with the Canadian Army as a carrier pigeon delivering messages during the Second World War. This was an important job because the soldiers in the field, sailors on ships and pilots in airplanes needed the ability to communicate and send messages about their progress, to request supplies or call for help.

Soldiers wrote messages on very small pieces of paper. The message was then put inside a small container and attached to one of Beachcomber’s legs, shown below.

The container wasn’t heavy, but it must have felt funny on his leg. Can you imagine, flying with something attached to your ankle?

Beachcomber is being presented with his PDSA Dickin Medal by Dorothea St. Hill Bourne, Secretary of the PDSA Allied Forces Mascot Club. Beachcomber is being held by Sergeant Andre Meischke of the Royal Corps of Signals. Source: Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).

A small container and attached to one of Beachcomber’s legs. Photo Credit: VAC Photo

Often, two pigeons were sent off carrying the same message so if one of them didn’t make it, the message would still reach its destination. When the pigeons were released, they tried to fly to their coop. When they landed, a bell or buzzer went off and the soldiers knew that a message had arrived and instructions based on the message were given out.

I imagine the pigeons must have been scared. They flew for many kilometres in all kinds of weather. The sky was sometimes filled with gun fire. Some of the pigeons didn’t complete their journeys and others were wounded. It was dangerous but these birds were loyal and faithful to their owners. They were amazing!

We should know that the men and women who served their countries were helped by animals and birds, like Beachcomber.

Beachcomber brought the first news of the landing at Dieppe, under hazardous conditions in August 1942, while serving with the Canadian Army. For this, he was awarded the Dickin Medal on March 6,1944.

Animal Memorials

Animal Memorial Archway, Ottawa

Around the world, grateful people have built permanent memorials to honour the millions of animals that lost their lives in war. In Ottawa, Canada’s capital, the stone wall at the entrance to the Memorial Chamber in the Parliament Buildings has carved animals and the words “The Humble Beasts that Served and Died.”

In Lille, France, a graceful statue of a woman with a carved pigeon sitting on her outstretched hand is a memorial for the messenger pigeons who saved so many soldiers and citizens during the wars. In 2004, the Animals in War Memorial was unveiled in London, England’s Hyde Park. Horses, mules, dogs, elephants, camels, pigeons and even glow worms are remembered there.

Man's Best Friend
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