Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Camouflaged Pigeon Roosts

WWI camouflaged pigeon roost

During World War I, one of the fastest, most effective ways to send a message was the use of homing pigeons, who reportedly succeeded at a rate of 95%. More than 100,000 pigeons were used on the battlefield in France. They were housed in camouflaged transport vehicles like the one shown here, vans that had been adapted to serve as pigeon roosts.  Of course, this led to spurious claims that, if the camouflage was too effective, it would prevent the birds from finding the roost.

For example, the following comment appeared in Eva March Tappen, The Little Book of the War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1918), p. 76—

"Landscape painters were called upon to help in the camouflage, and airmen sailed aloft to see how well they had succeeded. One succeeded altogether too well, if we may trust the story, for he camouflaged so perfectly the van in which homing pigeons had been brought that on their return they did not recognize it."

Below is another camouflaged pigeon roost from the same era. It's a non-motorized wagon, and its camouflage is different from the previous example. In this case, the wagon has been painted to match the stone wall, fence and shrubbery in the background.

Non-motorized camouflaged pigeon roost