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Friday, September 3, 2021

Day 22, Pigeon IV.

In Europe messenger pigeons were only employed in military service towards the end of the 19th century, after they proved to be of great service to the people of France during the Franco Prussian War. When the Prussian armies neared Paris, a French citizen offered the service of 300 pigeons to the French Government, only to be mocked and disregarded. Though during the siege of Paris, when all other forms of communication were lost, the French General in charge accepted the pigeons and they proved to be of great service. The people of Paris would load a balloon with letters and homing pigeons for return correspondence and fly the balloon over enemy lines. It is estimated that 400 pigeons delivered nearly 115,000 government messages and about a million private messages during the siege. Afterwards, and due to their display of service, the German Authorities established a pigeon loft and conducted the training of birds for military purposes. Resulting in numerous breeding stations to be erected throughout Germany and thousands of pigeons placed in the service of their army. Russia, Italy and Austria also took up the service of pigeons after the Siege of Paris. By 1893, Germany had pigeon stations right across the nation and it was believed that if all the railways and telegraph lines in Germany were seized by an enemy, the military pigeon was so perfect that they could correspond with the capital and keep up communication between posts. The French Government at that time is reported to have owned 78,000 pigeons, spending 100,000 francs per annum for the maintenance of their pigeon lofts, while Belgium also introduced pigeons into their military system. In 1896 the US Navy released a report after a four year trial of messenger pigeons from naval ships, concluding that the usefulness of the service should be established as an Act of Congress on a permanent and recognised basis. While news agencies and private individuals in England had been using messenger pigeons since 1851, the British Government never really took up the use of pigeons like other nations.