This week, I continued the quest to learn about our Museum Volunteers’ favourite things…
When I asked Lynda, she replied, ” I kind of like that comfy chair in the library. ” No wonder! Lynda volunteers to maintain garden areas in the Heritage Air Park and the planter boxes outside our Museum!
Captain Lynn Barley is our Museum’s Director & Wing Heritage Officer. She is quite taken with our Pigeon Desk! ” In our Museum we have a wooden ‘pigeon desk’. Now as a general rule, I love things made out of wood but this desk has a great story as well! It was used to house the homing pigeons carried on a bomber aircraft. These pigeons were a backup to the radios, to be used if the radios failed or if radio silence had to be maintained. Talk of ‘back to the basics’ – using a pigeon to deliver your messages is mind boggling in this day and age of instant communications!
Pigeons have been used since Roman times for sending vital information and were certainly used to great advantage during WWI and WWII. At the zenith of war production during WWII, Great Britain had 20,000 birds in her pigeon army! The stories of what they accomplished are truly incredible. There are loads of stories about how a message carried by one little pigeon saved the lives of many men!
After finding the pigeon desk in the gallery and mentioning how much I liked it, I was shown a book we have in the Museum Library called Heroic Pigeons by Arch Whitehouse. This book has some amazing tales about homing pigeons. One story in particular is the tale of a crew who had to ditch their Beaufort bomber in the North Sea. Bailing out, the radio operator managed to get the pigeon basket into the life raft with him but found that one of the two pigeons had been lost in the icy water. They released the remaining bird with a capsule attached to its leg containing their approximate location. Rescuers were searching an area of rough ocean of over 70 square miles to no avail; it was looking very bad for the downed crew. Somehow though, the first bird made it home safely. Using the time it had been since they’d been last heard from and how fast a pigeon flies, rescuers estimated a rough distance from land they thought they should be looking and the men were saved! ( The second bird never did make it back… ) What a great story. I wonder what the specific story behind our pigeon desk is? It’s amazing what you can learn from the artefacts in our Museum! ”
Dan works in our Museum Library. He tells me, ” This is an Air Force Museum. Air Force means airplanes. The men, the machines, the mission. I find a connection to all of the above within the Museum; but my main interest is the airplanes. I can learn from the books, I can see with the photos, I can visualize with the models and displays, and standing in the Air Park, I can see some of the airplanes and feel their grandeur.
Every day I am reminded of the great life I have had, over my past 40 years, with the RCAF. It is all kind of humbling, and inspiring, at the same time. ” Dan has compiled two albums of photos and related information that are displayed on the Library table; have a look next time you come in for a visit!
Mel chairs our Collection Management Committee and works on our archives. ” This item is not on display but is my favourite item in the Musuem. It is the Patrol Jacket of Sgt. Harry Bryant. He became one of the early Sgt. pilots in the late twenties, early thirties. This is a very rare tunic but there is no way to display it appropriately at the moment. ” Hopefully we might see it on display when our new showcases are put into our hallway!
Deb, our Gift Shop Manager, has a favourite cabinet in our Gift Shop Area ~ the Toy Cabinet! It’s the perfect spot to stop when you come in to look for those stocking stuffers and other gift items, especially for the children ( small and big! ) on your list! The neon coloured parachutists just want to jump into a Christmas stocking!