Friday, September 17

Columba: the ingenious operation with carrier pigeons that spied on the Nazis in the darkest time of World War II

  • Gordon Corera *
  • For BBC History Extra magazine

Releasing carrier pigeon from an airplane, 1941

Image source, Getty Images


Releasing homing pigeon from a plane, 1941. Homing pigeons used by British aircraft during radio communications disruption or during ‘quiet’ periods during World War II.

On the night of April 8, 1941, a British Royal Air Force (RAF) Whitley bomber took off from Newmarket, home to the Special Tasks squad that left British intelligence agents behind enemy lines.

The plane was attacked by anti-aircraft fire near Zeebrugge, it managed to reach its destination: the Franco-Belgian border.

That’s where the operations really began.

But what emerged from the plane and fell on the ground they weren’t highly trained spies otherwise carrier pigeons.

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