This beautiful front cover from ILLUSTRATED, 21 November 1942, has always been a great favourite.
Part of the text in the centre of the magazine reads:
These little winged friends are carried “in case anything happens”. They bring back the news. And they also call up rescue if the disabled bomber comes down in the sea. They are always carried on daylight raids, seldom on night raids because pigeons do not fly by night.
Now there’s a very interesting comment, and a facet of this subject which is obvious when you come to think about it.
1942 – when this magazine cover and article were published – was the year of the grand daylight raids in broad daylight, in particular Augsburg, Le Creusot and Milan. The cost of such daylight raids proved prohibitively high, and until D-Day had made the skies safer Lancasters flew night operations for over a year and a half. So why are there carrier pigeons in the drawing which started all this debate, Carrier Pigeons in the Bomber War ? This shows the pigeons were being carried in December 1943. The drawing is so clearly taken from life that the pigeons cannot be there because of artistic licence. So were the birds there for reassurance? Or for just in case a crew came down in the sea and could wait till daylight to release the birds? That is the fascination of research, the never-ending series of questions and queries it throws up.
Below, another illustration from the magazine.