What does it have to take for a soldier to save 2,000 lives? A tank? A rifle? A cannon? An airplane? For William of Orange, it only takes a pair of wings and a beak.
William of Orange, owned by Sir William Proctor Smith, is a pigeon that saved over 2,000 soldiers during the Battle of Arnhem in 1944 by sending the first SOS message telling the main camp that the British forces were in trouble.
And within 4 hours and 25 minutes of flight over 260 miles, the war pigeon successfully relayed the message!
For birds like William of Orange, 260 miles is just a piece of cracker. Just so you know, 260 miles is equivalent to 418 km! That’s like 153 Golden State Bridges!
Trained by the National Pigeon Service, he did his best (and even did way better than his best) in serving the army. Pigeons are usually used by soldiers during those times to deliver messages whenever radio communication isn’t enough. And as part of the Royal Corps of Signal, he needed to prove his worthiness as a military pigeon.
At that time, the paratroopers at Arnhem Bridge were in trouble and needed airborne support against the German soldiers. If the pigeon haven’t relayed the message, it could immediately spell defeat to the British Army.
What’s more interesting about this pigeon’s act is that he flew while being rained by bullets of the Germams and travelled across 135 miles of open water without any navigational guide. He also successfully returned home while under such circumstance.
Just like what any soldier would do, he refused to leave his comrades in the middle of the battle. He never moved when he was launched by 2 British soldiers in the air as if he still wanted to support his platoon.
Because of his bravery, the pigeon that saved over 2,000 soldiers was awarded with the Dickin Medal and making him the 21st animal to receive it.
In war, it’s not about how small, how fit, or how brave you are to prove your worthiness. Sometimes, even the smallest member of the army could eventually change the tides of war. This is how William of Orange did his part in the battle!