“Behind enemy lines, trapped on all sides, food rations depleting and water accessible only by crawling under enemy fire to a nearby stream, the nine companies of the United States 77th Division prepared to send out their last messenger. With their own artillery fire now bearing down on them, the 500 or so men, who would later become known as the “Lost Battalion” of WWI, placed their last hope into the feet of a Black Check homing pigeon named Cher Ami (“dear friend”). The note placed inside the canister attached to its leg couldn’t have carried a more important message:
“We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it!”
With two pigeons already shot and killed shortly after release and all previous runners’ feared either captured, killed or lost, Cher Ami rose above the safety of the hill as the battalions fate hung in the balance. Amongst a barrage of gunfire Cher Ami took flight. 25 miles and 65 minutes later, a shot, partially blinded, blood spattered pigeon with one leg hanging on by a tendon, arrived at his loft and subsequently helped to save the lives of 194 soldiers. As reinforcements were sent in to the “Lost Battalions” location, Cher Ami was nursed back to health by a team of army medics who even fitted him with a carved wooden leg. Preserved for ever more on display at the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C., US, Cher Ami is just one of many flying creatures who without a choice found themselves thrust into the world of human conflict and asked to risk their lives to aid in our struggles .
Over 100,000 pigeons served Britain alone in the WWI, and that number doubled for WWII. With communication lines often cut or destroyed by the enemy, the pigeons homing ability proved decisive in carrying messages to and from the battlefield. Often coming under fire and suffering injury, exhaustion or severe weather, pigeons were renowned for their perseverance in delivering their messages, helping to save the lives of many men.”