WWII carrier pigeon's brave deeds remembered
9 Jan 09
A carrier pigeon which acted as a vital means of communication to RAF Linton-on-Ouse during the Second World War has been honoured by the son of the man who looked after him.
Harold Wood, 84, from Copmanthorpe, York, who helped his father supply RAF Linton-on-Ouse with pigeons for wartime raids
[Picture: Matt Clark]
Sam the pigeon would ride alongside the base's crew and would go into action if the aircraft was shot down. The navigator would place the crash position on a piece of paper which he attached to the pigeon and, with his finely tuned homing instincts, Sam's job was to wing it back home to inform authorities of the loss.
As with other war heroes, Sam had a tale to tell. During a raid over Berlin, Sam's aircraft was hit and a piece of shrapnel flew into the cockpit and straight through his tin flying box taking his beak with it, although luckily he survived the ordeal.
Harold Wood from Copmanthorpe, York, was just a lad when his father supplied Linton with pigeons for the nightly raids. One of his jobs was to water the pigeons before they were collected by the RAF. He gave Sam his last drink on the day of his accident.
Mr Wood said:
"My father was asked to supply around 24 pigeons when a raid was on. He would ask fellow fanciers at the St Lawrence's Working Men's Club just off Hull Road in York and when he had gathered two dozen birds an RAF flat back truck was sent to collect them.
Harold Wood with Sam's original flying box complete with the hole made by the shrapnel that took the pigeon's beak
[Picture: Matt Clark]
"I was upset when I heard that Sam had been injured but remember thinking that even while they were busy patching up airmen who had been shot, they still had time to care for a poor bird."
In a trip down memory lane, Mr Wood was united with Sam's original box which for the first time since the war is back at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, complete with the hole made by the shrapnel that took the pigeon's beak.
During the Thousand Bomber raids of 1943, many of the destroyed aircraft also took with them a brace of fine racing pigeons which, like the crew, were trapped and unable to escape.
The brave exploits of the war's feathered flyers has since been documented in the book 'Pigeons in World War II'. Sam's old squadron recently reformed and is now back on flying duties at Linton-on-Ouse.