Heroic men who risked everything for the birds dropped behind enemy lines who would fly back home to England to deliver vital intelligence that left the Nazis flapping.
Unwittingly caught in the searchlights, the RAF Whitley reached Neuport on the coast of Nazi occupied Belgium, and a blaze of German batteries opened up on her. Miraculously unscathed, the pilots pressed on inland as per instructions. Just minutes later while passing above the fields of Flanders the crucial moment arrived. The flaps of the aircraft were lowered, and from a height between 600 and 1000ft, a British agent parachuted silently to the ground.
It was July 1941, and an extraordinary new development in the intelligence war with the Wehmacht was in full swing. So vital was the information gathered from this particular mission that it would end up on none other than Churchills desk.
However, the small figure floating down to earth through the Belgian night was no normal operative vulnerable to capture, torture or even worse. For this was Operation Columba, a largely forgotten yet vital weapon in the fight against Nazi Germany, which played an important role in the turning of the fortunes of the war. And the spy it was dispatching behind enemy lines was none other than a pigeon.