1. ITV Report

Pigeons race from Belgium to Pilton in WW1 commemoration

Pigeons race from Belgium to Pilton Photo: ITV News West Country

A pigeon race inspired by World War One took place today. Birds were released from the Belgian city of Ypres - which was the site of a several wartime battles.

They flew the 265 mile race back home to Somerset. And it was fitting because pigeons were actally used in the war effort a hundred years ago. They waited in a Somerset field for the birds that had been released in Belgium only a few hours before. Then - just before lunch they returned home. Just in time for a quick peck to eat.

Normally they would take to do the 265 miles about 6 and a half hours. So today they've been exceptionally quick.

– Jane Williams, Somerset One Loft Race
The first birds arrived 5 1/2 hours after setting off from Belgium Credit: ITV News West Country

The winners arrived within five and a half hours - that's a cruising speed of fifty miles an hour. No-one knows for sure how pigeons navigate. Some think it's the earth's magnetic field, others think they read landmarks. Some believe they use the position of the sun. No Matter. They returned safely

These were released in Ypres in Belgium, a hundred years after some of the bloodiest battles of the First World War.

Carrier pigeon G. I. Joe receives medal after delivering a message which saved soldiers Credit: War/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

They were the only form of communication, especially in the first world war. And the pigeons had canisters on their legs which messages were put in sent from the frontline or wherever they wanted messages to go. To either go to France or back to England. And the messages would then be passed on to Headquarters with vital information.

– Jane Williams, Somerset One Loft Race

The information they were craving today was no-where near as vital. The computer worked out which bird won. To the delight of his owner.