This is creative project which can be used to teach cryptography, commemorate WW1 and add that WOW factor to your lesson. Writing secret coded messages has been used for thousands of years and the project provides a stimulus for further investigation into cryptography. During World War 1 approximately 20,000 homing pigeons were used to carry secret messages back home to their base. It is estimated that 100,000 homing pigeons have served with the British Armed Services and had a 95% success rate of delivering their messages home. Further investigations are available into Animal Bravery Awards. The homing pigeon is the most decorated of all animals. 32 have been awarded the animals’ Victoria Cross, The Dickin Medal.
You can request free of charge an experienced person from the Royal Pigeon Racing Association to bring a small team of homing pigeons, 3 - 6 birds to your school and look after them until you are ready to send your secret messages by pigeon post at the end of your lesson.
Studying cryptography is a facinating topic and has many applications in today’s society. Bletchley Park, the home of code breakers, is frequently in the news.
Bletchley Park is the home of Secret Messages. Arrange a visit to their museum and education centre. http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/edu/pgm.rhtm
How the Secret Messages project using homing pigeons operates.
- Pupils write their secret message on a piece of paper. This could be a simple message using simple Caesar cipher. This could be further developed by generating a message using a virtual Enigma Machine Emulator http://enigma.louisedade.co.uk Lesson ideas on Secret Messages http://www.mathsisfun.com/games/secret-messages.html
- Pupils place their message into a canister attached to the pigeon’s leg.
- Pupils are taught how to hold the pigeon and then release their bird from an experienced pigeon fancier. Soldiers would have had to learn this skill.
- The homing pigeon is released and sets off for home carrying the message back to the code breakers at Kingsmead School.
- When the bird arrives home the message is taken from the canister and the message is decoded as fast as possible by a team of code breakers.
- The decoded message along with the original coded message is photographed by a smartphone or iPad/tablet and emailed to the person or school.
- Following the experience, pupils can research a range of different investigations and win some fantastic prizes.
1916 and 1941
Secret Messages being attached to the homing pigeon’s leg.
10th June 2014
Secret Messages in the News
- What is the history of Secret Messages, cryptography?
- What journey did the pigeon take to get home? (Geography, ICT)
- How long and how fast did the pigeon take to get home? (Maths)
- How were homing pigeons used during the war? (History)
- Who was Royal Blue and why was this pigeon famous? (History)
- The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Race 2012
- Pigeon Post - Postman Pat
- Grandad’s Pigeons - Teletubbies
Royal Pigeon Racing Association
To arrange a visit to your school please use the following contact Form.