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A World War 2 Memory for Young Flyers

Jack Saynor of Sheffield, now 86 years old, would like to share a true wartime story with our young members.

Jack lived in Stannington, in a little bungalow at the top of Wood Lane. In 1939, at the start of World War 2, he was 15 years old. Jack recalls “The Police, Army and Air Force came and confiscated all of the young pigeons for war service, as the young birds were easier to settle. The police used to liberate our older pigeons from Rotherham and Sheffield in any weather, to fly to our loft, for if communications had broken down between Rotherham and Sheffield due to bombing contact could be maintained.

Anyhow, when I was digging for victory, planting potatoes in the back garden, I looked up and saw a dark cock that we had supplied to the Air Force. When he dropped I saw he had a Bakelite container on his leg. My father told me to run up to the village police station and report it. In next to no time all the top brass from the police, army and air force were at our door, all trying to get the honour of being first. I have never seen so much gold brass. Our neighbours were out and thought that there had been a murder and my poor mother thought the Germans had landed on the east coast and she was in a proper flap. We never did find out what was on the message, only that he had been liberated from the back end of a Wellington bomber over the North Sea.

I was pigeon-mad as a lad at school and often got the cane for gazing out of the window at the pigeons belonging to the village butcher, Mr Hawksley. I was presented with a lovely medal for supplying pigeons to the forces in the war by Dave Allen and Francis Butler, which I treasure.

I have got an old photo of my grandfather on his wedding day, holding a pigeon in his hand on the wedding photo. How did he get away with that?

I am now 86 years old and I miss my pigeons. Anyhow I will sign off now and I hope it will be of some interest to our younger members.”

The photo above shows a pigeon and his container after he’d been salvaged from a crashed Halifax bomber.

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5 Responses to “A World War 2 Memory for Young Flyers”

  1. Ken Ambler4 26 August 2012 at 8:03 am //

    Memories. My Dad Sgt John A Ambler 985462 RAF Pigeon Service was i/c two birds which were awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery. I have his scrapbooks which record details. I hope the programmes on TV will enhance the exploits which contributed to peace, and will be understood and appreciated by those fortunate enough to watch them.

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  2. victor scriven 21 October 2012 at 12:38 am //

    Is there a memorial to pigeons at the National Memorial Arboretum? If not, why not?

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    • Derren 30 October 2012 at 9:38 pm //

      Victor – pigeons are commemorated along with all other animals that served in war on the Animals in War Memorial at the edge of Hyde Park. See http://www.animalsinwar.org.uk

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  3. judy allen 22 October 2012 at 2:36 pm //

    My Dad flew in Halifaxs; he was a rear gunner but has never mentioned pigeons. Can anyone supply information about this? He had his logbook but this was stolen when he died last year, but we don’t remember seeing anything about pigeons.

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