‘More than just human heroes’ The role of the pigeon in the First World War
Due to their centrality in war communications, carrier pigeons, lofts and pigeon handlers were legitimate targets for enemy forces during the First World War (1914–18). As a result of the multi-faceted nature and conflicting interests associated with the post-war debate on appropriate ways of memorialising the war dead (humans), the contribution the animals was largely excluded from the discussions and rarely considered. Belgian and French pigeon fanciers in particular, who as moral witnesses to the slaughter of their birds and brethren, were the exception. They took action to supplement the military and quasi-military, as well as informal recognition extended to war pigeons and their handlers, by erecting official monuments to honour their war dead. Responding to current debates that question animal memorialisation in general, this article, which is largely based on contemporary news reports, reports on an investigation of the early war pigeon memorials, their nature, form symbolism and meaning for the affected community within the context of animal and war memorialisation generally.