Military Review

Military pigeon connection in the Red Army on the eve and during the Great Patriotic War

The pigeon connection was adopted by the Red Army in 1929 and since that time, despite the rapid development of technical means of communication, it was widely used as an auxiliary tool until 1945. During World War II, pigeons were used mainly in the interests of the intelligence departments of the armies, however, there have been cases of their successful application and for operational communications command.

History military pigeon connection

The history of using pigeons for military communication due to their natural ability (enhanced by selection, crossing and training) to find the way to their place of permanent residence (their nest, their pair (female or male) at long distances (up to 1000 km or more) and after a long absence (up to 2 years) goes into the distant past.

It is known that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Persians and Chinese widely used pigeons to transmit information on paper (including military purposes).

However, analysis of a number of sources suggests that the impetus for the widespread introduction of military-pigeon communications (mail) in all European armies was the experience of successful combat use of pigeons- "signalers" by the French during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 during the defense of Paris. 363 pigeons were delivered by air balloons from the besieged city, many of which, returning to Paris, brought a significant number of pigeongrams (memos and photomicrographs).

Blueglasses (dispatches), exchanged with pigeons, were written on thin (tissue) paper, inserted into the stem of a goose feather and attached to a strong feather in the tail of a pigeon or placed in a light metal container (portepechnik) attached to the bird's foot. If it was necessary to transmit a long text, then they took a photomicrograph (with a decrease to 800 times) and transferred it to a thin film of collodion - “pellikule”. The correspondence was delivered at an average speed of 60 — 70 km / h (sometimes pigeons could fly at speeds up to 100 km / h). Due to the fact that the pigeon could carry a load of up to 75 g (about 1 / 3 of its own weight), it was sometimes adapted for photographing the terrain.

Military pigeon connection in the Red Army on the eve and during the Great Patriotic War

Postal dove with a device for photographing the area

Already in 1874, in all German fortresses, and later in other European armies, established pigeon post units were established (military pigeon stations - HCG). For military pigeon ties, Belgian (Antwerp, Brussels, Lyuttikh, and other) breeds of hardy carrier pigeons, obtained by successfully crossing with other species, were used. The life span of a pigeon is approximately 25 years, while they could serve as "postmen" for about 15 years.

To Russia, pigeons for the organization of military pigeon stations in the fortresses of the Warsaw Military District (Brest-Litovsk, Warsaw, Novogeorgievsk) were specially brought from Belgium to 1885. Later, the Order of the Military Department No. 46 (1888) was announced about the military-pigeon mail ", which established the states, the order of subordination and livelihoods of HCV.

In accordance with this provision, depending on the number of directions in which the pigeon connection was maintained, the military-pigeon stations were divided into four categories: Class I - into four directions, Class II - three, Class III - into two, and Class IV - into one. Each station had, respectively, discharge from one to four pigeons for 125 pairs of pigeons in each.

Every pigeon on the eighth day after his birth was worn on the foot of the family ring with the state emblem. On the ring were marked: year of birth and pigeon number, station number. And after 1,5 of the month, a stamp was stamped on the wing with the designation of the station and pigeon numbers. At each station there was a list of pigeons with notes about the direction and distance of their training. By the beginning of the First World War, the military engineering department included 10 full-time military pigeon stations. In addition, some fortresses and military units maintained their (non-standard) stations.

Military pigeon station of the Russian army in Turkestan.

Unfortunately, the authors do not have a significant amount of information about the combat use of military pigeon stations during the First World War. There have been cases of successful use of pigeons to communicate with reconnaissance groups and patrols. To do this, the pigeons were placed in special bags on a horse reconnaissance or in a foot patrol satchel, and a pigeon station was located in the area of ​​the headquarters that received the reports. Although if we consider that a long period of war was of a positional nature, it is quite possible to assume that military pigeon stations have found their application. However, interest in military-pigeon communications after the war continued to persist, and the theory and practice of using pigeons as mobile communications continued to develop.

Military pigeon connection in the USSR

In 1925, in order to prepare postal pigeons for use in the interests of the state’s defense, a single center of pigeon sport was established by the decision of the Soviet Government under the Osoaviahima Soviet Central Council. And in 1928, Deputy Commissar for Military and Maritime Affairs (NKVM) of the USSR I.S. Unshliht proposed that the Administrative Meeting of the Labor and Defense Council introduce in the Soviet Republic “military pigeon duty”.

In his memorandum on this, he wrote, in particular: “To meet the needs of the Red Army in wartime with the pigeons necessary for the liaison service, the Commissariat of Defense considers timely the establishment of military pigeon duties ... [At the same time] the possibility of using pigeons to the detriment of interests The USSR dictates the necessity of prohibiting the keeping and breeding of pigeons by institutions and persons not registered with the NKVM and Osoaviakhim bodies, as well as prohibiting everyone, except the NKVM bodies, for mailing pigeons from the borders of the USSR and their import from abroad. "

And although this project was not fully implemented, in 1929 by order of the Revolutionary Military Council “On adopting the pigeon connection system”, the use of pigeons for military purposes was legalized. In 1930, the first “Manual on the combat training of the Red Army communications troops for military pigeon units” was published, and military registration specialty No. 16 was established for military breeders of breeders.

Pigeon stations were divided into permanent (stationary) and mobile. Permanent stations were part of the district (front) set of communications units (subunits). A mobile (on the automotive or horse-drawn base) had to be equipped with all cases. It is interesting to note that on the eve of the Great Patriotic War, the views on the use of HCV and our probable adversary were about the same. As follows from the "Special Instructions on Communications" (Appendix No. 9 to the Barbarossa Directive), in each army a fixed station and in each case a mobile blue station was deployed.

The term for establishing communications for permanent pigeon stations was determined by the time required for the pigeons to be allocated and delivered to the location of the pigeon post. When transporting pigeons in a car or on a motorcycle over a distance of 100 km, communication was established in 2 hours. The term for establishing communications with the mobile station was determined by the time required to prepare the pigeons at the new parking lot and to deliver them to the post. It was believed that the mobile station could deploy a pigeon connection on the fourth day.

Transportation of carrier pigeons on a motorcycle

The training of personnel (military pigeon breeders) for HCS was entrusted to the Central Training and Experimental Kennel School of Military and Sports Dogs, which by the order of the Head of the Red Army Communications Department No. 015 of April 7 from 1934, was named Central Communication School of Dog Breeders and Golubev. In addition, 20 on April 1934 was included in the structure of the Scientific Experimental Institute of Military Dog Breeding, the previously disbanded and re-established Institute of Military Pigeon Breeding of the Red Army.

The teaching staff of the school prepared and published the “Textbook of the junior commander of golubevodstva”.

From April 1934 to December 1938, the school produced 19 releases for trainees at the advanced head of stationary military pigeon stations. At the same time, from 7 April to 30 December 1938, in accordance with the RKKA directive No. 103707 from February 15, 1938 23 was prepared for the courses of the head of the military pigeon stations with assignment of the military rank of junior lieutenant.

According to the pre-war views of the military leadership on the organization and maintenance of communications in the Red Army, pigeons were to become an auxiliary means of communication, which could be used in special situations of combat situations when technical means were not applicable or their operation was interrupted. However, due to the ineffective combat use of HCS in local conflicts on the eve of the Great Patriotic War in the Far East and the Soviet-Finnish war, as well as during the Soviet campaign in the western regions of Belarus and Ukraine, the need for their presence in the Red Army communications forces was questioned .

Thus, the commander of the communications troops of the Western Special Military District, Major General A.T. Grigoriev, in his service note (No. 677 / 10 of 21 in August 1940), wrote to the head of communications of the Red Army: “There are still permanent (i.e. stationary. - Auth.) Pigeon stations in the district, in the states buildings there are mobile blue stations ... During the period of the operations, these stations did not play their role. There were cases of use of pigeons in the Polish operation (meaning the entry of Soviet troops into Western Belarus in September 1939 - Auth.), But without proper effect, and in the Lithuanian operation (the entry of Soviet troops into the Baltic States was carried out by the forces of the Belarusian Military District, communications of which in this period were A.T. Grigoriev. - Auth.) pigeons were not used.

In relation to mobile blue gates the situation is bad. There were no mobile stations in the district, and the corps arrived to us (1, 47, 21, 28) have no mobile stations. USKA neither stations nor an answer about the time of their production does not give. What to do next?

My opinion. This type of communication in modern forms of operation cannot justify itself. I do not exclude that in order to [exchange] information, for the district intelligence department, pigeons can be found and used. I thought it would be possible to exclude pigeons as a means of operational communications from the composition of communications and transfer them to the intelligence department to ensure the delivery of official information. ”

Probably, these views on the pigeon connection were also shared in the Red Army Communications Administration (USKA). This, for example, can be judged by the content of the manual book prepared by General N.I. Gapichem for chiefs of staffs and chiefs of communications of corps and divisions in November 1940, in which even the possibility of using pigeon communication was not an issue (Gapich NI Communication service in the main types of general combat. - M .: Voenizdat, 1940. - C. 304.).

The use of military-pigeon communications during the Great Patriotic War

It is noteworthy that during the outbreak of the war, the Soviet and German commanders took all measures to take the pigeons at the theater of operations under tight control.

So, in the autumn of 1941, when the fascist German troops approached Moscow, the city commandant issued a decree ordering to prevent the use of hostile elements by pigeons from private individuals, to hand them over to the police office at ul. Petrovka, d. 38. Persons who did not surrender pigeons were held accountable under martial law.

In the Nazi troops to intercept postal pigeons were specially trained falcons and hawks.

By order of the German occupation authorities, all pigeons, as an illegal means of communication, were to be seized from the population and destroyed. For harboring birds, the Germans punished the death penalty, as they were afraid that the pigeons would be used for guerrilla warfare.

It is known that on the second day after the occupation of Kiev the order of the commandant was posted in the city about the immediate surrender of all domestic pigeons. For failure to comply with this order - execution. To intimidate the population for the shelter of the birds, several Kiev residents were shot, including Ivan Petrovich Maximov, a golubevod in the city, who was arrested and executed.

As for the use of pigeons for operational communication, the following should be noted here. The experience of organizing management and communications in the first operations of the initial period of the Great Patriotic War showed that in conditions of high rates of development of operations, frequent movements of headquarters, effective combat use of the pigeon connection, in fact, became impossible. It is noteworthy that the Germans didn’t move their stationary pigeon stations into operation in the beginning of Operation Barbarossa into the USSR.

During the war (up to 1944), pigeon operators were mainly used in the interests of the intelligence departments of the armies.

Thus, at the beginning of the summer of 1942, in the Kalininsky Front, the pigeon station was transferred to the headquarters of the 5-th Red Banner Rifle Division to provide communication with military and division intelligence groups in the rear of the enemy. The station was installed at the location of the reconnaissance company in 3 km from the leading edge. During the month of operation, the station changed its location four times. However, the pigeons worked, although not without loss. By November, only 40% pigeons remained at the station, and she was sent to the Central School of Communications for re-formation.

There have been cases of use of pigeons for operational communication. For example, during the battle for Moscow, a stationary pigeon communication station in the defense system of Moscow was specially created on the basis of the nursery of the Central School of Communication of Dog Breeding and Pigeon Breeding. Here the pigeons were trained on 7 main and several auxiliary areas near Moscow. It is known that for participation in the defense of the capital near 30 golubevodov were awarded orders and medals.

As for the organization of the military-pigeon connection in the union (connection) for the entire depth of the operation (battle), here the authors know only one case, which we will discuss in more detail.

In 1944, when the strategic initiative finally passed to the Soviet command, and the communications troops gained sufficient experience in combat use in defensive and offensive operations (battles) of both technical and mobile communications, it was decided to form a pigeon communications company and transfer it to 12 Guards Rifle Corps of the 1 Shock Army of the 2 Baltic Front (1 scheme).

An experienced pigeon breeder Captain M. Bogdanov was appointed commander of the company, and Lieutenant V. Dubovik was his deputy. The division consisted of four pigeon stations (chiefs were junior sergeants K. Glavatsky, I. Hydranovich, D. Emelianenko and A. Shavykin), 80 soldiers and 90 lightweight portable pigeonhouses (baskets), each of which contained 6 pigeons. In total, there were 500 pigeons in the company, which were distributed (trained) in 22 directions and worked reliably in 10 — 15 km radius.

The forces and means of the company provided two-way communication between the corps headquarters and the divisional headquarters and the one-way communication of the divisions with regiments and units operating in areas where the uninterrupted operation of technical communication equipment could not be ensured under the combat situation. Over the 6,5 months of operation, more than 4000 dispatches were delivered by pigeons. On average, 50 — 55 pigeons — and sometimes more than 100 — were delivered in a light day. The scheme of the organization of bilateral pigeon communications in the battles when crossing the river. The great 23 — 26 Jun 1944 r. Is shown in the 2 diagram.

Losses of "winged signalers" were significant. For every two months of the war, shells and debris killed up to 30% of pigeons. Many "hero pigeons" for the most part, unfortunately, remained unknown. At the same time, in the historical chronicle of the Great Patriotic War there were episodes when the distinguished “winged signalman” could be identified by the generic number.

Thus, in the company of M. Bogdanov there was a case when during the delivery of a combat report, pigeon No. 48 was attacked and wounded several times by a hawk, but was able to get away from it and deliver a report. “Already in the twilight, 48 had fallen under the feet of Popov’s Popov. One of his paws was broken and held on thin skin, his back was peeled off, and his chest was in gore. The pigeon breathed heavily and eagerly grabbed the air with its open beak. After transferring to the headquarters part of the report from the scouts, the pigeon was operated on by a veterinarian and rescued. ”

After the war, technical progress forced the pigeons out of the arsenals of communications. All military pigeon stations were disbanded and became another interesting page of military history.
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  1. Srgsoap
    Srgsoap 28 October 2013 09: 18
    I could not resist))))))
  2. Kovrovsky
    Kovrovsky 28 October 2013 10: 02
    An interesting article, pigeons also contributed to the Victory!
    1. Aryan
      Aryan 28 October 2013 12: 13
      would make even more
      if they were also trained
      spoil the helmets of the enemy laughing
    2. vladimirZ
      vladimirZ 29 October 2013 08: 00
      The military-pigeon communications in the Red Army was also used in tank troops.
  3. ivanovbg
    ivanovbg 28 October 2013 11: 47
    English reporters on the Normandy coast of 6 June 1944 also used the pigeon mail.
  4. avt
    avt 28 October 2013 15: 06
    Well, the means of communication described back in the flood was a dove that brought Noah a branch to the ark. It’s quite a means of communication that has been tested for centuries, which should not be neglected and smart people take it seriously, Article plus good An interesting fact - when the Germans in the Ardens touched the amers, the paratroopers worked there as saboteurs - scouts, they used pigeons for a long time. And the commander of the SS 6th tank army, Dietrich, when asked to use pigeon mail to communicate with paratroopers, replied - "I am not the director of the zoo"
  5. Glory333
    Glory333 29 October 2013 03: 09
    Of course, there were a lot of tanks / planes lagging behind, but mostly outdated and in addition without radio stations, so the pigeons are not from a good life. And the dogs were taught to throw explosives under the tanks, Guderian has this in his memoirs.