How Gustav the Pigeon Broke the First News of the D-Day Landings


On June 6, 1944, the primary report of the D-Day landings arrived at Thorney Island’s Royal Air Pressure base close to Portsmouth, England. The winged messenger who relayed the information at 1:46 PM was a grizzle cock pigeon named Gustav.

A message penned by Reuters correspondent Montague Taylor was connected to the pigeon’s leg, containing the primary information of the Allied troop landings on the beachheads.  

“We’re simply twenty miles or so off the seashores. First assault troops landed 0750. Sign says no interference from enemy gunfire on seaside. Passage uneventful. Steaming steadily on. Formations Lightnings, Typhoons, Fortresses crossing since 0545. No enemy plane seen.”

Though the loyal RAF homing pigeon was generally known as a “dependable” flyer, this fateful journey had been troublesome for him. Gustav flew for 5 hours and 16 minutes throughout a distance of 150 miles to ship the information, amid darkened skies and a headwind of about 50 miles per hour, based on the Imperial Warfare Museum. Other than troublesome climate circumstances, the perils of struggle—together with hawks skilled by the Nazis to kill Allied provider pigeons—had been omnipresent risks.

Raised in Cosham, Hampshire, Gustav was considered one of six pigeons given to Taylor to help along with his struggle reporting. Skilled courier pigeons had been usually transported to battlefronts in wicker baskets and launched to convey crucial messages when the state of affairs demanded. Taylor is claimed to have first acquired Gustav in a basket together with 4 different birds as he ready to offer protection of the Allied landings in Normandy.

“The invasion military have considered every thing, together with provider pigeons to hold the large information dwelling if all else fails,” reported Taylor, based on writer Bernard O’Connor in “Bletchley Park and the Pigeon Spies.” “A Wing Commander arrived right here just a few hours earlier than I arrived on my [tank carrying] touchdown ship and offered me with a basket of 4 pigeons, full with meals and message carrying gear.”

After taking off from a warship on the Normandy coast and fluttering for hours by means of war-torn skies, the pigeon safely reached his RAF loft at Thorney Island. But like different navy service members in wartime, Gustav didn’t return to scenes of peace and tranquility when he arrived again on base. Thorney Island was then a base for squadrons of Hawker-Hurricane fighter-bomber plane tasked with knocking out German radar on the coast of France and, as soon as the D-Day landings commenced, with launching floor assaults on German forces. Though he had left the hazards of Normandy behind, the pigeon had flown again right into a hotbed of wartime exercise.

Gustav’s braveness didn’t go unrecognized. On September 1, 1944, he acquired the PDSA Dickin Medal for gallantry. The award, created in Nice Britain in 1943, has grow to be generally known as the equal of the Victoria Cross for animals. His quotation for the medal credit him for “delivering the primary message from the Normandy seashores from a ship off the beachhead whereas serving with the RAF on 6 June 1944.” At Gustav’s award ceremony, he acquired a kiss alongside along with his ribbon, with the second captured on a newsreel.

Gustav grew to become considered one of 32 courier pigeons to obtain the Dickin Medal. A fellow winged recipient was the Duke of Normandy, who additionally grew to become well-known for his position in delivering a crucial message on D-Day. The coaching, care and feeding of pigeons grew to become a really severe enterprise throughout World Warfare II as many homing pigeon lovers stepped as much as contribute skilled birds to the struggle effort.

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