World War One, and to some extent, the Second World War, was a strange blend of archaic and modern technology. The First World War, in particular, saw many technological innovations such as machine guns, grenades, submarines, warplanes and tanks, and despite the advances in radio and communications technology, many field commanders preferred to use carrier pigeons to convey important messages. Radio sets were too heavy to carry into battle, and field telephone lines snapped easily. With a homing pigeon, one could write a message on a piece of paper, place it inside a small canister and attach it to the pigeon’s leg. Once the pigeon was released, it would invariably try to fly back home and deliver the message.
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Two Swiss Army soldiers prepare a homing pigeon for dispatching. Photo: Swiss Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons