Pigeons catch the train home

At the end of World War II, repatriating and demobilising the Australian military was a huge and challenging logistical task. There was a large variety of military equipment needing to be shifted, including 530 army pigeons that needed to be returned from Canungra, Queensland,  to their original civilian owners in New South Wales, Victoria or South Australia.

Australian pigeons assisted the wartime communication network by carrying despatches and essential messages:

Thousands of birds were enlisted, given numbers, regimented and trained. Pigeon fanciers enlisted too, some in special carrier-pigeon sections of the Australian Corps of Signals, some pigeon-lofts and all, in the VDC [Volunteer Defence Corps], with the result that the whole Army was well provided with a network of pigeon communication.

Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 23 May 1946, page 4

The repatriation of the birds stationed in Canungra is written about in the correspondence of the Agriculture and Stock Department. Each of the 530 birds had to be examined and the pigeons declared free of parasites of any kind before transport from one state to another could be arranged. After he inspected all pigeons held at the Army Camp Canungra on 8 January 1946, the inspector from the Poultry Branch declared:

Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 4547: General correspondence – Agriculture and Stock Department – Letter 21 Dec 1945, Re: Movement of Army Pigeons from Queensland to New South Wales; A.I. 45/2571, Chief, Division of Animal Industry; includes note by inspector dated 8 Jan 1946

The individual examination of each of the 530 birds was also referred to in this letter dated 9 January 1946:

Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 45473: General correspondence – Agriculture and Stock Department – Letter 9 Jan 1946, re: Army Pigeons Canungra QLD; MD 45/33607, A/Director, Division of Animal Industry

Following signoff on their clean bill of health, the pigeons were forwarded by goods train number N200. From our records:

Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 45475: General correspondence – Agriculture and Stock Department – Letter 21 Jan 1946, Re: Army Pigeons Canungra QLD; ND 33607/45, A/Director Division of Animal Industry

We don’t know the end of this story but we hope our feathered friends were eventually happy to be home to roost following their war service.

About Queensland State Archives

For more information about Queensland State Archives visit www.archives.qld.gov.au.

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