Spies Like Us: Homing Pigeons

So I'm trying something new this week: a theme! Every day this week I'll be writing about something that has to do with spying, spies, Harriet the Spy, etc. Today, we'll be looking at homing pigeons.

The grey birds have played an important part in intelligence work since the beginnings of espionage. While carrying vital secrets, the birds can soar high over enemy lines. In Roman times, Caesar used them to send messages during his campaigns. Ever since, spies have valued the pigeon's speed and its ability to return home in almost any weather. When we think of homing pigeons, we, of course, think of WWI when more than 500,000 birds carried messages back and forth. Reconnaissance pigeons even carried tiny cameras in the sky to take pics of enemy fortifications.

In WWII, spies used pigeons to guide bombers to the launch sites of the German V1 "flying bombs." Meanwhile, soldiers on the front line were ordered to shoot any bird even before they saw the whites of their eyes. Pigeons could carry only light loads, so the messages had to be really small or else reduced to a microdot, which would later be enlarged.

No one really understands completely how the birds are able to make their way back "home." Most researchers believe that they have an inner compass mechanism that relies on the sun. It's also thought that the birds can detect the Earth's magnetic field. Whatever the reason, the homing pigeon is probably (hopefully) a thing of the past. My favorite story about these spies is the one about a specific bird named Cher Ami, who was awarded the French Croix de guerre for his heroic service in delivering 12 important messages during WWI, despite having been very badly injured. Now that's what I call giving "flipping the enemy the bird!"

war

Harry Potter Cast Remembers the Late Alan Rickman

© 2009 - Warner Bros.
© 2009 - Warner Bros.

The world lost some of its most iconic celebrities in 2016, including ​Carrie Fisher and David Bowie. For ​Harry Potterfans, the January 14, 2016 death of ​Alan Rickman hit hard. Unsurprisingly, his castmates were also deeply impacted by the actor's death and have spoken out several times over the years about the magic he brought to the set.

"Alan Rickman is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors I will ever work with," ​Daniel Radcliffe wrote about Rickman a couple months after his death. "He is also, one of the loyalest and most supportive people I've ever met in the film industry."

Over two years later, the cast of Harry Potter is ​remembering Rickman to Entertainment Weekly.

Both ​Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood, and director Chris Columbus remember Rickman for being stoic on the outside, but very sweet on the inside.

"You’re thinking, it’s the guy from Die Hard and going, 'Oh my god.' If he’s in a serious mood, he’s intimidating as hell. But suddenly I had dinner with him ... and when he smiled, he just became the warmest, nicest human being in the world," Columbus said.

"Alan Rickman, pretty much every day of filming, he had a whole troop of little children [visiting]," Lynch remembered. "It was the most bizarre scene to see Snape in this black robe ... surrounded by all these happy little children who were just chatting away to him.”

Oliver Phelps and Warwick Davis recalled Rickman's affinity for iPods.

“I remember once he’d come back from an awards show ... and in the gift box was an iPod, when they’d first come about," Phelps said. "I remember being next to him ... and I ended up showing Alan how to work an iPod, which was not what I thought I’d ever do in my life. He was a very approachable guy once you saw past Snape’s wig."

"I started to wonder, what does Alan Rickman as Professor Snape listen to on his iPod?" Davis stated. "An audiobook? Some Shakespeare? Some classical music? Some techno beats? I don’t know. I never did ask
him, and I wish I had. I’d love to have known.”

​​Rickman's final role was in Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Game of Thrones Star Sean Bean Talks Reprising Ned Stark Role for Prequel Series

Nick Briggs, HBO
Nick Briggs, HBO

Former ​​Game of Thrones star Sean Bean had a brief run on the show before his character, Ned Stark, literally lost his head.

During a recent interview with ​The Hollywood Reporter, Bean shared his take on whether he'd be willing to reprise his role for the Game of Thrones prequel series. Since next year's eighth season will also be the ​series' final season, fans are eager to get their fix through the prequel series, which is set to start filming next year.

When Bean was asked if he'd consider being a part of the prequel, he said, "I don't know how we can be ... I don't know how anyone can be, since they're going backwards, I'd be younger. Now, we all look a little bit older."

Before you get your hopes up and put all of your faith in the magic of digital editing, which could potentially make Bean appear younger, the actor appears to have doubts about reprising his role in general. He shared:

"I'm always a bit reluctant to go back to shows under a different format or guise ... But you never know with something like this, it just depends on the time frames ... I think if the quality was maintained. You know, the kind of thought behind it, if it didn't look as though it was an add-on just to capitalize on earlier success."

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER