AUSTRALIAN CORPS OF SIGNALS PIGEON SERVICE,
AUSTRALIAN ARMY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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In early 1942, the possible threat of a Japanese invasion was considered a distinct possibility. At the time our lines of communication depended on lines or wireless. After a review of our communications capability, a number of weaknesses were revealed.

Lines were vulnerable to interference by the enemy, wireless communications could be monitored, and messengers may be intercepted by the enemy.

A conference was held between some prominent homing pigeon owners and some Senior Australian Army Signals officers. It was decided to initiate a series of trials using specially selected pigeons. After the satisfactory completion of the trials it was decided to establish the Pigeon Service as part of the Australian Corps of Signals.

The role of the Pigeon Service was to provide an alternative means of communications between coastal defence areas following an invasion or damage to existing communications infrastructure by the enemy.

A number of serving members of the Australian Corps of Signals who had been pigeon fanciers before the war were selected to establish the Pigeon Service. They were joined by a number of civilian pigeon fanciers who were enlisted into the Army. Some of the Officers selected for the Pigeon Service were:-

Capt. D.H. Day
Capt. H.T. Cornish
Lt. S. Cranfield
Lt. R. Ware
Lt. Richmond
Lt. E. Gofton
Lt. A. Imber
Lt. L. Roach
Lt. K. Wrightson

The Pigeon Service then sought donations of suitable birds from Pigeon Fanciers across Australia. Approximately 13,500 pigeons were donated at no charge by members of the public.

By the end of 1942, various aircraft spotting, coast watching and Volunteer Defence Corps posts across Australia were linked via a series of specially established pigeon lofts. The pigeons were also used to provide communications between Army Small Craft and coastal areas.

It was eventually realised that the pigeons could also play an important role on the battlefield. In December 1942, the 8th Australian Pigeon Section was sent to Port Moresby. Pigeon lofts were located at Bootless Bay, Milne Bay and Paga where they serviced various shore batteries, the 1st Australian Water Transport Group and some US Small Ships.

In 1943 the 1st Australian Pigeon Section moved from Queensland to Port Moresby to meet the increased demand for the use of the pigeons. The 7th Australian Pigeon Section was located in Darwin. The 2nd and the 6th Australian Pigeon Sections were located on Thursday Island.

In December 1943, several pigeon lofts were assigned to the US 6th Army for use in the landings to be made at Arawe, Saidor and the Admiralty Islands. The Chief Signal Officer of the American Forces in the South West Pacific Area expressed his appreciation for the services of the pigeons in a memo to the Signal Officer in Chief of the Australian Military Forces.

                    SOME QUEENSLAND PIGEON LOFTS

No. 6 Pigeon Loft Collinsville
No. 7 Pigeon Loft Mackay
No. 8 Pigeon Loft Townsville (Bank of NSW Building)
No. 22 Pigeon Loft St. Lawrence
No. 23 Pigeon Loft Thursday Island
No. 29 Pigeon Loft Barrine
No. 30 Pigeon Loft Wondecla
No. 31 Pigeon Loft Barrine
No. 32 Pigeon Loft Trinity Beach
Nos. 36 - 40 Pigeon Lofts Barrine
No. 42 Pigeon Loft Wongabel

The 8th Australian Pigeon Section returned to Australia in May 1944 and was attached to the 7th Australian Division Signals. The 10th Australian Pigeon Service moved to New Guinea in late 1944 relieving the 12th Australian Pigeon Section. The 7th Australian Pigeon Section moved from Darwin to Bougainville in October 1944. In November 1944 the 4th Australian Pigeon Section arrived in Aitape from Australia and the 9th Australian Pigeon Section arrived in New Britain.

In February 1945 a detachment of the 5th Australian Pigeon Section left Brisbane with the 22nd Line of Communications Sigs headed for Morotai. During May 1945, the 8th Australian Pigeon Section relocated from Townsville with the 7th Australian Division Sigs bound for Balikpapen.

 

REFERENCES

"Short History of the Australian Corps of Signals Pigeon Service (from) 1942"  (An AWM Home page)

Diary of World War II North Queensland
Peter Nielsen

 

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This page first produced 30 March 2002

This page last updated 03 October 2014