Of Runners and Carrier Pigeons

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Few people today are aware of the importance – vital importance, in fact – of carrier pigeons to winning the war against the Nazis.

carrier_pigeon_during_WWIIAll too often the thought is that it was modern technology that made winning the war possible, such as radar, radio and Bletchley Park to name but a few, but low tech was very important, from runners, couriers, and observers to the humble homing pigeon or carrier pigeon (and no, they were not based on aircraft carriers).

Even in today's high tech world – and the way my computer has been and is playing up the more I am convinced of this – those means of communication can be more reliable than anything else, as can be dead letter drops. Just drop it in there; don't have to murder it first.

Just before the D-Day Landings especially, when almost total radio silence had been ordered so as not to have the Germans get wind of the preparations, a vast number of carrier pigeons was used, many of which carried messages from SOE agents and the Resistance in France.

Such humble means of communications are also something that we should keep in mind for the event that other communications, upon which we have come to rely so much in the last decades, break down or are, for whatever reason, down, including government shutdown of them, such as was the case with cell phone networks immediately after the 7/7 bombings in London.

Letters, especially written by hand, are something that are quite alien to many of the younger generation today and some hardly know, nowadays, how to properly address a letter and an envelope, and let us not even talk of putting together a letter. Years ago that was something that every child was taught, either at home or at school, as it was a vital life skill.

The military and government in general today also has little knowledge of methods and means of communication other than by electronic means from radio to packet switching and others and all of those are prone to interference, interception, hacking, etc. This is not to say that a letter, whether by mail or courier, a carrier pigeon or a runner, cannot be intercepted.

Our reliance, dubious reliance, on those high tech methods to the detrimental loss of knowing how to use and employ those older low tech ones can spell disaster one day and we would all do well to have contingency plans in place where manual communications can take over from the high tech ones.

Pen and paper are not dead and never will die of death for communications and for the noting down of things regardless of the fact that some people think so. And old-fashioned means may, in fact, save the day some day in the same way as carrier pigeons did it for World War Two.

© 2012