Germany had been intercepting pigeons carrying Allied notes so MI5 moved to drop false information. It planned to put extra pigeons over the west coast of France to give the impression the invasion would be there. The revelations come in newly-released files on World War II called “Channels for deception”.
A to a Capt Guy Liddell said: “On average about 10% only of the birds dropped on the Continent return to their lofts in this country - it must be assumed that a great number fall into German hands. During the past few weeks I also understand there has been a great concentration on the Brest and Brittany areas. It might therefore be possible to deduce that we have considerable interest in this region.”
The deception operations (Operation Fortitude) surrounding the Normandy landings are considered by some historians to be the most important of World War II. They were overseen by the London Controlling Section (LCS), a special unit formed in 1942 within the Joint Planning Staff at the War Cabinet offices. LCS controlling officer Col John Bevan was said to be “quite delighted” with the pigeon plot, according to the files.
The first mention in the documents of using pigeons to thwart the enemy comes from MI5’s Lt Col Tommy Robertson. He said: “The pigeon is sent in a cardboard container - which can quickly be buried or burnt – with a little bag of corn and a questionnaire. These birds are dropped over a chosen area in the hope at least some of them will fall into the hands of... supporters of the Allied cause. It occurs to me that this is a possible means of putting deception over to the enemy by the careful framing of the questionnaires as presumably the Germans must, if they capture some of these birds, take notice of the type of question asked.”
The documents make it clear arrangements were made to go ahead with the plan, but it is unclear if it was carried out. The official historian of MI5, Christopher said “Because pigeons are used to pass on messages, it’s understandable someone thought of this. It must have seemed like a really good idea at the time but possibly not the next day.”