Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The secret cow stampede of Eilean Mor and the World War II spies

The tiny island of Eilean Mor (Mòr) in the Scottish Hebrides gets a mention in the book by Ben Macintyre, Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies (Crown, 2012).

You can see the page here, and this is the relevant section:

When six cows stampeded on the tiny island of Eilean Mor in the Scottish Hebrides, this was immediately ascribed to secret enemy activity. That the spies were invisible was merely proof of how fiendishly clever they were at disguising themselves. Even pigeons were suspect, since it was widely believed that enemy agents had secret caches of homing pigeons around the country that they used to send messages back to Germany.

Cow spy

Innocent cow, or spy giveaway?

While this may be easily dismissed as mere paranoia, it would be unfair to do so without reflecting on what was happening at the time, and had gone before.

It seems that in World War I, more than 100,000 carrier pigeons carried important messages, saving many lives.

And in World War II, British Intelligence used more than 250,00 pigeons, and Macintyre claims that Flight Lieutenant Richard Melville Walker (who worked for MI5), was convinced “that Nazi pigeons were … pouring into Britain, by parachute, high-speed motor launch, and by U-boat.” Such was the anti-avian frenzy of the time that “Some experts claimed to be able to identify a pigeon with a German ‘accent.'”

And there were other used that they served, saving the lives of aircrews when their normal means of communication (radios) were rendered useless. See the story of Winkie, the pigeon that saved the lives of a downed bomber crew, and won the firs Dicken medal.

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February 19, 2013 - Posted by | military, World War I, World War II | , , , ,

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