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MI5 'tried to catch German pigeons over Scilly in WW2'

A team of MI5 officers tried to catch German pigeons on the Isles of Scilly during the Second World War.

The squad spent a summer on the islands with Peregrine Falcons on their wrists after homing pigeons were spotted heading south towards the French coast in 1941.

A 'Falcon Destruction Unit' had been formed over fears the Nazis were using homing pigeons to relay important information.

The information is revealed in BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera's new book Secret Pigeon Service.

The Telegraph quotes him as saying during an appearance at the recent Hay Festival: “There were wild hawks, peregrine falcons, on the British coast and they would kill some of the pigeons coming back from occupied Europe with messages. There was a question of what to do and so MI5 got in on the act. [They were I think] the only MI5 team with a licence to kill."

He added: “A team of MI5 officers actually spent a summer on the Scilly Isles, on the golf course, with hawks on their wrists, trying to catch German pigeons.

“One would stand at the highest point of the course, another across the island on the coast - hardly the worst job in summer - looking out for enemy pigeons, their falcons ready on their wrists to let slip. The Air Ministry supplied them with some pigeons to practise on.

“The sad truth is that the only pigeons they managed to kill were British ones because hawks don’t have a friend or foe identification system.”

An MI5 report after the war apparently noted that the hawks did not bring down a single enemy pigeon, “probably because there never were any”.

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