Former Head of M15 – “My Mother’s Pigeons Saved Lives in WWII”

Dame Eliza Manningham Buller
Dame Eliza Manningham Buller

Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, who became head of M15 from 2002 to 2007, is set to tell the story of how her mother trained pigeons during WWII to save lives during the said war.

Dame Buller said her mother’s sole purpose for going into pigeon training that time was because “she needed something to do” and from her band of trained birds, one was awarded the Dickin Medal for animal gallantry.

Mary, Dame Buller’s mother who would later become Viscountess Dilhorne, was employed during the Second World War to train carrier pigeons from her Victorian abode in Oxfordshire.

The pigeons, about 32 birds in all, then went on to become carriers of very important messages from Europe; one of the 32 won the Dickin Medal, much coveted military decoration for animals.

Dame Eliza spoke about her mother’s war contribution in a radio interview last December 27 and had to visit her old family home to find out more about her mother’s life as a pigeon trainer during WWII.

“She needed to do something. She had two young children, but she needed to have a job.

“She was recruited by what was then the war office to train and house carrier pigeons,” she recalled.

She then added:

“My mother was told – and I don’t know whether this is true – that one of the pigeons brought back confirmation of what was happening at Peenamunde, where the V2 rockets were being made, which led to the RAF raid.”

The curator of the “Pigeons at War” exhibit at Bletchley Park, Colin Hill, gave his confirmation that about 20 pigeons which belonged to the late Viscountess Dilhorne really did went to secret service and delivered messages from France, Holland and Belgium.

“The majority of her pigeons brought very important messages back. One flew three different journeys and he was given the Dickin medal,” he said.

he clarified that for a pigeon to win the said award, the bird had got to be carrying messages that would save lives. One of her pigeons really did go on a run carrying messages with information about the V1 and V2.

– The Telegraph reports

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE