World Environment News

UK Mulled Using Birds for Bio-War After WW2 - Files

Date: 24-May-04
Country: UK

Homing pigeons carried vital messages in wartime, and the Pigeon Policy Committee of the day discussed training them to undertake ever more daring tasks.

"We can now train pigeons to 'home' to any object on the ground when air-released in the vicinity... Bacteria might be delivered accurately to a target by this means," the Head of the Air Ministry Pigeon Section Lea Rayner said in a 1945 report.

"With the latest developments of explosives and bacterial science I suggest that this possibility should be closely investigated and watched."

"A thousand pigeons, each with a two ounce explosive capsule, landed at intervals on a specific target might be a seriously inconvenient surprise."

But Rayner's enthusiasm was not shared by other committee members and in 1948 the armed services said they had no further interest in pigeons.

The secret services however thought anti-British forces would continue to communicate with each other via pigeons and asked a civilian pigeon fancier to keep 100 birds for MI5 to use to prepare countermeasures, but they abandoned that scheme in 1950.

Britain used around 250,000 pigeons to carry messages in World War II and 32 of the birds received the Dickin Medal, the highest award of valor for animals.

© Thomson Reuters 2004 All rights reserved

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