Sunday, July 25, 2010

India WW2 Pigeongram - Nur Jehan

Today's post is on one WWII Indian Pigeongram envelope issued by Indian Airmail Society. I don't need to explain the history behind usage of pigeon's for carrying message. They have been in service since centuries to carry message. One can find many stories of love, betrayal or wartime when pigeon played important roles as messengers.

Now, don't expect me to talk about the Pigeon used in Indian blockbuster movie "Maine Pyar Kiya" (a close translation would be:I fell in love) and its heroics in conveying love messages between lovers. Indian cinema have certainly immortalized Pigeons through movies since the birth of cinema in India. But here, I'll briefly touch upon stories of couple of Pigeons who helped creating history other than in cinema :-)

In modern times, the pigeon had been used to great effect during WWI & WWII. In both the First and Second World Wars, the pigeon saved hundreds of thousands of human lives by carrying messages across enemy lines. Pigeons were carried on ships in convoys and in the event of a U-boat attack a messenger pigeon was released with details of the location of the sinking ship. In many cases this led to survivors being rescued and lives saved.

In the First World War mobile pigeon lofts were set up behind the trenches from which pigeons often had to fly through enemy fire and poison gas to get their messages home. The birds also played a vital role in intelligence gathering and were used extensively behind enemy lines where the survival rate was only 10%.

In the Second World War pigeons were used less due to advances in telecommunications, but the birds still relayed invaluable information back to the allies about the German V1 and V2 Rocket sites on the other side of the English Channel.

When one talks about Pigeon's role during wars then there are couple of names which comes to mind instantly.

First of them is Cher Ami (dear friend) who saved the lives of many French soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle during WWI. Cher Ami was shot in the chest and the leg, losing most of the leg to which the message was attached, but continued the 25-minute flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home. Cher Ami was awarded the French ‘Croix de Guerre’ medal for heroic service.

Another heroic pigeon named G.I. Joe saved the lives of a thousand soldiers in World War 2 after British troops had established a position within an Italian town that was due to be bombed by allied planes. Communication equipment was down and the only means of stopping the raid was to attach a hastily written message to G.I. Joe and send him to the allied HQ. G.I. Joe flew 20 miles in 20 minutes arriving at the air base whilst the planes were taxiing on the runway. Disaster was averted with 5 minutes to spare. G.I. Joe received the ‘Dickin’ medal for his bravery.

And the last one without whom the post will be incomplete was Paddy, from Northern Ireland, who received a medal for becoming the first bird to fly back with news of the D-Day landings in Normandy in less than five hours.

Naturally, the then Indian state of Orissa police were so impressed that 40 pigeons were acquired from the Indian Army and deployed across the region immediately. You would be disappointed to hear that Pigeon services which were used since 1946 in India were finally discontinued in 2004 in Orissa state.

Anyway, so coming back to today's item, the Pigeongram was carried by the Pigeon named NUR JEHAN.

Shown above is the front side of Pigeongram. The envelope was carried on 14th October from Burdhwan to Calcutta. The envelope carries a half anna stamp on it with Calcutta cancellation. It shows a possibly olive tree with Pigeons/Doves (a messenger of peace) flying. It also carries a patriotic message printed on it which urges everyone to be united and contribute as much possible to help win the war:

The Nazi Bombers,
Their Bombs They drop & bolt.
The Infant and the Aged,
They are out to kill.
Its up to you to do your bit,
And make them still.

The reverse side carries signature of Stephen Smith, the secretary of Indian Airmail Society that time or rather father of Rocket Mail in India. The envelope also has a box shaped slogan cancellation on it which states "BUY DEFENCE SAVINGS CERTIFICATES".


semprelibri said...

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Anonymous said...

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