The Long Flight Home

The True History Behind The Long Flight Home

Homing pigeons were used extensively in World War II. In fact, Source Columba (later in the war referred to as Operation Columba) was the actual code name for when Britain dropped 16,000 homing pigeons into German-occupied France and the Netherlands in the autumn of 1940 as a method for locals to provide intelligence to Britain.

The war pigeons were placed in small cages with an attached parachute. To transport them, the Royal Air Force flew risky missions deep into enemy territory. Inside each of the cages was paper, a pencil, and instructions written in French. It was the hope of British services that some of the pigeons would end up in the hands of the French Resistance, who would write intelligence on the paper, and then place it inside a small canister attached to the bird’s leg. Once released, the pigeon would fly home to its loft, hundreds of miles away.

If you’d like to learn more about the history behind The Long Flight Home, please take a look at the free downloadable companion booklet we have created. It is available online here:


This map shows
Susan and Bertie’s cottage and pigeon loft adjacent to Epping Forest, where they would have lived, approximately 2 miles from North Weald Airfield. From there, it shows the nearly 200-mile path that Duchess would have had to fly back-and-forth between Susan in Epping, England, and Ollie in Airaines, France, where he and Lieutenant Boar hide out after their crash. Also represented on the map are the general flight path of the German bombers during the Blitz.