Pigeons played a vital role in World War 1 and some were even awarded medals typically given only to humans for their bravery and endurance. Since man-made communication systems were still crude and unreliable, dogs and pigeons were used. Such was the importance of pigeons that over 100,000 were used in the war. The birds had an astonishing success rate with 95 percent getting through to their destination and delivering the message.
In October 1918, as the war neared its end, 194 American soldiers found themselves trapped by German soldiers. They were cut off from other Allied soldiers and had no working radios. The only chance they had of alerting anybody about their desperate situation was to send a pigeon with their co-ordinates attached to its leg. The pigeon’s name was Cher Ami.
When released it flew 25 miles from behind German lines to the Americans headquarters. Cher Ami covered the 25 miles in just 25 minutes. Although shot through the chest by the Germans, it continued to fly home. As with other pigeons, it would not have known where the American’s nearest headquarters was – its natural homing instincts took over.
With the co-ordinates, the Americans launched a rescue and the “Lost Battalion” was saved. Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm for the astonishing flight. On display is a mannequin of a World War I soldier handling a pigeon, a tribute to Cher Ami.