Photos of animals in World War One: the pigeon with the camera

Pigeons were widely used since the antiquity to carry messages and for the same purpose they served all Armies – not only the British Intelligence Service – during the WWI, and even later, during WWII. Faster than dogs, these birds were trained to fly, even for a long period and through the bombardments. Each time a telephone line or a radio connection was not available, pigeons were able to keep important dispatches from the front to a settled position – generally the headquarters –, no matter where they were released. Besides, they were sometimes fitted with cameras in order to take pictures of the enemy position, so important was the aerial photography in the strategic conflict (this is the case of the picture we post today). It is, therefore, not an exaggeration to say that pigeons have to be regarded as soldiers at all intents and purposes. Stories such that of Cher Ami confirm this statement: probably the most famous carrier pigeon, Cher Ami served on the French front in 1918, during the last stage of the Great War; it helped to save 200 Americans soldiers surrounded by the enemy, because it succeeded in delivering the message to the headquarter, although it was badly wounded – renowned is in fact its picture without the left leg. Harry Webb Farrington devoted even a poem to this war bird. Pigeons were decorated during the Great War as human beings were and memorials devoted to war pigeons can be found in many countries, such as at Worthing, England or in Brussels, Belgium.

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