Flyers get new wings

SQUADDIES in Iraq have pulled off a real military coo – when they discovered a live pigeon had been accidentally shipped out to them in a consignment of rations.

SQUADDIES in Iraq have pulled off a real military coo – when they discovered a live pigeon had been accidentally shipped out to them in a consignment of rations.

Soldiers from 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps were stunned to find the speckled grey and white bird had survived a three-week journey cooped up in a crate in a Gulfbound supply ship from the UK.

The helicopter regiment's newest set of wings yesterday hopped out of a stack of shrink-wrapped pallets when they were opened as they were distributed in the desert of southern Iraq.

But in an irony the pigeon would not appreciate, the troops, who are part of the rapid response 16 Air Assault Brigade, have called theie feathered friend Harry after the harris hawk, the bird of prey displayed on the Army Air Corps cap badge.


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Staff Sergeant Steve Hoyle has taken the new recruit under his wing – and feeds the bird oatmeal block from the soldiers own' Army issue rations as he settles into his unfamiliar desert home.

"He was fine when he jumped out, just like he is now," said the 34-year-old from Skipton in Yorkshire, who has been nicknamed the Birdman of Basra by his friends.

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"I was surprised he had survived on the boat for so long. He flies away sometimes but he always comes back – he must be someone's homing pigeon. I may be a Yorkshireman but I'm no pigeon fancier – until now."

And like most of the UK forces on Operation Telic in Iraq, Harry prefers biscuits from British 24-hour ration packs to American issue Meals Ready to Eat rations.

Carrier pigeons used to play a vital role in military communications before the advent of radio. French soldiers during the siege of Paris in the 19th century used them to get messages beyond encircling German attackers.

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