Vignette: Traitor pigeons of World War II, and the story of Charlie Peanuts

Treason is no stranger, in time of war. England had her Lord Haw-Haw—William Joyce. The Norwegians had their Quisling. Yet treachery is not restricted to human form.

Pigeon of the Rock Dove variety [Public domain]

Pigeon of the Rock Dove variety [Public domain]

A plethora of Dickin Medals—Victoria Crosses of the military animal world—were awarded to the humble beasts that did our bidding throughout both world wars, the Second, in particular. The decorations were well deserved.

And so it pains me to admit that there could have been treachery in Britain’s Pigeon Corps.

Most dastardly on record was 44.BA.59876, the pigeon known to his UK handlers as Charlie Peanuts, a Rock Dove who winged his way to SS headquarters in Bordeaux. London’s message to the Resistance fighters of Nantes was thus delivered to the pigeon coops of the Nazi conquerors. Many a loyal Frenchman had cause to curse the name of Peanuts. Or so they thought.

Once back in England, Peanuts spent a sojourn in the Tower. I imagine he might have shared a sandwich or two with Rudolf Hess. The bird disappeared soon after, and was never seen again.

But espigeonage thrives upon duplicity. Double, even triple agents, have risen up to ruffle feathers. A mystery surrounds the solitary pigeon who flew messages to and from the Fuehrerbunker in the final days. He sometimes strayed across the Allied lines. After a fatal wounding by a hawk, the brave pigeon was buried in Berlin with all due ceremony and the honorary rank of Stabsgefreiter (corporal).

Foul traitor or winged hero? I would like to believe that Charlie Peanuts was the latter.

Think well of him, and think well about this date, today.

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