Pigeons through the millenniums have acted as messengers of war. Genghis Khan deployed them in Europe in the 13th century. The first news of Wellington's victory at Waterloo came by pigeon post. And an estimated 20,000 military pigeons were killed during World War I.
Images of the long-distance homing birds that served Britain through two world wars went on auction Tuesday, fetching an unexpected $20,789 and a lot of surprised clucking.
The owner of the paintings, Jack Lovell, established secret pigeon lofts near the Dover coast in 1939 that provided 200 specially bred Belgian pigeons, of the kind depicted in the images, to the Royal Navy for deployment behind enemy lines with the French Resistance.