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Sending messages by carrier pigeon

During the war, carrier pigeons were used to fly messages between command centres and the trenches. They were the responsibility of the Director of Army Signals. Three men were allocated to each Infantry Brigade to operate the service two to run the pigeon stations or mobile lofts and one, usually a motor cycle despatch rider, to transport baskets of birds to and from the front line.

Every message was recorded in the Pigeon Service message book and the forms were specially made to fit into the message carrier that was attached to the bird's leg. Two birds were usually sent out carrying a copy of the same message. It took four days to train a man to handle and fly the birds and about six weeks to prepare the young birds.

A motor-bus converted into a mobile pigeon loft

Image of a converted motor-bus used as a carrier pigeon loft (National Records of Scotland reference: BR/PER(S) 34/113).
(National Records of Scotland reference: BR/PER (S) 34/113 )

Notes on the use of Carrier Pigeons

Print an image and transcript of the instructions regarding the use of carrier pigeons (Rich Text Format, 1.8KB, new window)

National Records of Scotland reference: GD377/199/24


SS.123 OB.305



During the recent operations, Carrier Pigeons have proved of great value for purposes of communication and have in many cases brought in most important information through a heavy barrage of Artillery fire and through Gas clouds when no other means of communication was practicable.

This means of communication is capable of further development, but to obtain full value from it, the principles of the use of this service and the care of the birds must be thoroughly understood by all concerned. The following notes on the subject are therefore issued for guidance:-


1. The service consists of 'Lofts' (Stationary, Motor Mobile, Horse Drawn Mobile) and 'Pigeon Stations' (with Infantry) and 'Mobile Pigeon Stations' (with Cavalry Divisions).

The Lofts are where the Pigeons are normally kept and to which they home, the Stations are the points to which birds are taken and whence they are released, with messages, as required.

2. All Lofts are under the Director of Army Signals, General Headquarters, who is responsible for the provision of Lofts at suitable places, for the provision and posting of personnel to the Lofts, Stationary or Mobile, and for the supply and maintenance of Pigeons in the Lofts.

As far as possible, all existing Lofts within the area of operations are requisitioned.

Additional Lofts are not to be requisitioned, nor Mobile Lofts or Loft personnel moved without reference to the Director of Army Signals.

(Reproduced with kind permission of Sir John Hope for Hope of Craighall, National Records of Scotland, GD377/199/24)




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