I recently can across this picture in a local history book, which shows Joyce Bancroft taking part in the "Wings for Victory Week" in Silsden nr Keighley in 1943. Joyce was born in 1917 in Silsden, the daughter of Sam Bancroft and Nora Crossley. Sadly her father Sam, was killed shortly after her birth in the First World War and she was brought up by Nora and her Grandparents. I wrote an article some time ago about Sam's time in the war and the circumstances surrounding his death, which can be read by clicking here.
As is explained, Joyce was working in the RAF Pigeon Service in World War Two which got me thinking ...... I never realised that we were still using carrier pigeons in World War Two !
Joyce's Grandfather, John Henry Bancroft, who died in 1931, was formally a partner of a company called Smith and Bancroft of Cowling a well known firm, in the world of pigeon fanciers, and was reported in the local newspaper as" having exhibiting with much success all over the country". He was president of the Silsden and District Flying Club,[the group of local pigeon fanciers], and had been engaged in the sport up until a week before his death.
|John Henry Bancroft|
"Wings For Victory" Week took place between 15th-22nd May 1943 and was a fund raising scheme to encourage civilians to save their money in Government accounts, such as War Bonds, Savings Bonds, Defence Bonds and Savings Certificates. Cash would be paid into Post Offices or Banks. In much the same way as War Weapons Week, it would coincide with a week of parades, exhibitions and other war paraphernalia. The Keighley area, including all the outlying villages such as Silsden, where Joyce Bancroft lived, were set a target to raise £750,000, which was the cost of ten Lancaster Bombers and seventy-five Spitfires planes. Silsden's efforts to raise money included the use of messenger pigeons which created a revival of interest in the Silsden and District Flying Club, and required all it's members to hold permits to keep homing pigeons under defence regulations. Purchasers of Saving Certificates were allowed to send greetings to local friends by 'pigeon post'. Some 185 birds, bearing messages on their legs secured by a small rubber ring, were dispatched from the local playing fields, and when the birds returned to their lofts the messages were then delivered by hand. This may have seemed a slightly pointless exercise by today's standards, but it did help to arouse interest in the fund raising and Silsden were able to provide funds for the war effort of £160,664...a very fine sum from a small village.
|Pigeons released from the Trenches|
With the latest developments of explosives and bacterial science I suggest that this possibility should be closely investigated and watched. A thousand pigeons, each with a two ounce explosive capsule, landed at intervals on a specific target might be a seriously inconvenient surprise."
Below are a couple of poster issued by the government during wartime, reminding the general public of the importance of carrier pigeons for communication purposes, and the penalty for shooting them.
[I acknowledge the book " Keighley in the Second World War" by Ian Dewhirst, where some of the information came from for this article]