The orphaned pair were nicknamed F-35 and Lightning (Picture: Royal Navy).
News

Royal Navy’s Stowaway Pigeons Returned Home

The baby pigeons were flown home to Britain by helicopter and are now in the care of the RSCPA.

The orphaned pair were nicknamed F-35 and Lightning (Picture: Royal Navy).

The orphaned pair were nicknamed F-35 and Lightning(Picture: Royal Navy).

Two pigeon chicks found onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth have been flown home to the care of the RSPCA.

The orphaned pair were spotted on Saturday by a sailor who heard chirruping, mere hours after the aircraft carrier left Portsmouth for the United States.

A spokesperson for the Royal Navy said:

"The fluffy pair, estimated to be around 10-days-old, were found huddled together by a sailor who heard tweeting coming from a remote ledge high up on one of the ship's boat decks.

"A careful rescue plan was put in place and the chicks were brought into the warmth by sailors from the ship's seamanship department.

"After much research on 'what baby pigeons eat', they have been fed at regular intervals over 24 hours, with a mix of porridge and warm water, administered from a syringe provided by the ship's medical centre with the tip of a latex glove attached.

"The chicks' beaks eagerly popped through a hole in the tip, hungrily sucking the porridge out, emulating the way they feed from their parents."

Nicknamed F-35 and Lightning by crew members, the siblings were flown to RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset in a Merlin MK4 helicopter where RSPCA staff took them to their rescue centre in West Hatch near Taunton.

Lieutenant Commander Lindsey Waudby said:

"While our focus for the deployment is getting the new jets on board for the first time, we are also prepared to conduct humanitarian relief, should we be called upon to do so - we just didn't think that would be quite so soon."

Sergeant Howling handing over the chicks saved from HMS Queen Elizabeth to AB Jones at 845 NAS, RNAS Yeovilton (Picture: Royal Navy).
Sergeant Howling handing over the chicks saved from HMS Queen Elizabeth to AB Jones at 845 NAS, RNAS Yeovilton (Picture: Royal Navy).

Whilst F-35 and Lightning failed to make the cut, the British Armed Forces have a long tradition of using pigeons during warfare.

During the Great War, an estimated 100,000 pigeons were used to send messages, with 95% of messages successfully delivered.

So important were pigeons to the war effort that killing one risked a fined of £100 or six months in prison.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Gibraltar MoD
The chicks were found onboard aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth (Picture: MoD).

Despite advances in technology, the animals were extensively used during the Second World War as well.

In 1943, the Dickin Medal - nicknamed the animal Victoria Cross - was inaugurated to honour the contribution of animals to the war effort.

In total 32 pigeons received the award before their use by the military was phased out in the post-war period.