Century-old WWI carrier pigeon message discovered in French field

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A tiny capsule containing a message dispatched by a Prussian soldier has been discovered in a field in the east of France. Described as “super rare”, the aluminium capsule was most probably lost by its carrier pigeon over 100 years ago during the First World War.

The message from an infantry soldier based at Ingersheim is written in German in a barely legible hand and describes military manoeuvres relating to World War I.

According to Dominique Jardy, curator of the Linge museum at Orbey in eastern France, it was addressed to a superior officer.

The date is marked 16 July but the year is not altogether clear, appearing to be written as either 1910 or 1916.

The First World War took place from 1914 to 1918.

Jardy called on a German friend to help decrypt the message which describes German manoeuvres between Bischwihr and Ingersheim at a time when Ingersheim – now in Alsace – was part of Germany.

According to the Guardian the message reads: “Platoon Pattholf receives fire as they reach the western border of the parade ground, platoon Potthof takes up fire and retreats after a while.

“In Fechtwald half a platoon was disabled. Platoon Potthof retreats with heavy losses.”

Four copies of the message were most probably sent using four pigeons, one of which clearly lost its way shortly after take-off, said the curator.

A 'super rare' discovery

The tiny aluminium capsule was found in September by a couple out walking in a field in Ingersheim in eastern France. They handed it over to the nearby Linge Museum at Orbey which is dedicated to one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.

“When museum staff called me I said...this kind of a discovery is super rare,” Jardy told AFP on Sunday, adding that in forty years he had never seen anything like it.

He believed it had most probably come to the surface over time as is sometimes the case with grenades or shells from the two world wars.

The tiny piece of paper and capsule will become part of the museum's permanent display.

(with AFP)