Encyclopedia - Carrier Pigeons

American carrier pigeon "Cher Ami" awarded Distinguished Service Cross In the absence of more sophisticated telecommunication methods, e.g. radio transmissions, carrier pigeons were commonly used by all sides to ferry messages from point to point.  Nor were they used only for critical dispatches; they were routinely deployed from the front lines to carry status reports back to headquarters.

Although the telephone was the preferred method of communication, once troops had moved forward (or even retreated) beyond existing lines there was inevitably a delay while fresh lines were laid.  In addition pigeons were commonly used to report progress on battle actions, e.g. Flers-Courcelette (where tanks were deployed for the first time during the Somme Offensive of 1916).

Nevertheless the use of carrier pigeons did bring with it certain limitations, notably that as pigeons could only be trained to fly to known positions, e.g. base headquarters, they could therefore only be deployed from the front line to rear positions and not in the other direction unless troops were settled in a particular location for a lengthy period of time.

Pigeons were even carried aboard warships and seaplanes as a means of communications backup should radio communications break down.

Stormtroopers comprised specially trained German assault troops used in 1918.

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