Operation Columba: The Secret Pigeon Service: The Untold Story of World War II Resistance in Europe, by Gordon Corera
The fascinating, untold story of how British intelligence secretly used homing pigeons as part of a clandestine espionage operation to gather information, communicate, and coordinate with members of the Resistance during World War II.
Between 1941 and 1944, British intelligence dropped sixteen thousand homing pigeons in an arc across Nazi-occupied Europe, from Bordeaux, France to Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of a spy operation code-named ‘Columba’.
The birds carried messages that offered a glimpse of life under the Germans in rural France, Holland, and Belgium. Written on tiny pieces of rice paper tucked into canisters and tied to the birds’ legs, these messages were sometimes comic, often tragic, and occasionally invaluable - reporting details of German troop movements and fortifications, new Nazi weapons, radar systems, and even the deployment of the feared V-1 and V-2 rockets used to terrorize London.
Gordon Corera uses declassified documents and extensive original research to tell the story of the Secret Pigeon Service for the first time. A powerful tale of wartime espionage, bitter rivalries, extraordinary courage, astonishing betrayal, harrowing tragedy, and a quirky, quarrelsome band of spy masters and their special mission, Operation Columba opens a fascinating new chapter in the annals of World War II.
“Once you’ve read this book you’ll never look at a pigeon disdainfully again … No Frederick Forsyth thriller could be as gripping as this real-life story… Corera’s gripping book is an intoxicating mixture of comedy and high seriousness.” - Daily Mail
“[An] extraordinary, colourful and moving story.… [A] thrilling tale.” - Sunday Times