BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Saved by a Pigeon: The Story of White Vision

by pigeons

Contributed by 
pigeons
People in story: 
Ted Southern
Location of story: 
Shetlands
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2545229
Contributed on: 
21 April 2004

Part of RAF Coastal Command operated from the Shetland Islands, using Catalinas to patrol the northern sea routes looking for U Boats returning to Germany. The crews used to go out on 22 hour missions, searching for and, if possible, sinking any U Boats. As each plane ws ready to leave the crew collected two pigeons from the lofts, just as a fail-safe in case the radios packed up or any emergencies arose. In October 1942, Ted Southern was asked to sustitute for another crew member on a mission, so he was not flying with his own crew, which was always a little unsettling. Towards the end of the flight the weather turned really bad with gales and fog, so the Catalina was not allowed to land at Sullom Voe in the Shetlands, and was directed to Aberdeen, but there the storm conditions were just as bad and the plane was directed to Oban. With petrol running low, and finally running out, the plane was forced to ditch in the Atlantic. There was no radio contact, so the captain put messages as to their location into the leg capsules of each pigeon and sent them off. There were two life rafts, but accidentally one of them drifted off with only two men in it, which left too many men for the other raft, and everyone voted to stay on board the plane.
One of the pigeons never made it home, but White Vision flew 60 miles against the gale force wind with visibility down to about zero, and landed exhausted and with lots of feathers missing. From the message in the capsule, calculating wind speed and tidal drift, the RAF sent out the launch and came across the Catalina after about forty hours. As the last man jumped the gap between the tossing plane and the launch, the plane immediately sank, as though someone or something had been holding it up until that moment. The two men who had drifted off were picked up later, with the result that White Vision was responsible for saving 11 men, and was awarded the Dicken Medal, one of about 33 pigeons to be honoured in this way. White Vision was bred by Fleming Brothers of Motherwell, and she lived until 1953. How many other people can say that they owe their existence to a pigeon? If she had not reached her loft, the crew would have drowned, Ted Southern would not have survived and married my Mum and I wouldn't be here writing this.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Pigeons 'White Vision'

Posted on: 21 April 2004 by Freddy Dyke

To the writer of Pigeons who I assume
is Pat Southern.
Dear Pat,
I am suprised and overjoyed to see your contribution to the ww2 website
as I have been writing my contributions to this BBC Peoples war for over 10 months or so.
You will remember me Freddy Dyke of the 'Animals at War Memorial' and our trips to London.If you can use a computer to navigate this site you will see my contributions,namely,
'Saving the life of Aircrew'
'Animals at War,'DDay and our Winged Messengers',and a number of other entries that I have posted.You will see I have already posted the story of 'White Vision'but I have not mentioned your dad, Eddie as being one of the survivors of that ditched plane.Please view my contributions if you can and please keep in touch,
please give my regards to your MUM.
Best wishes to both.
Yours, Freddy.

Message 1 - RE White Vision- Pat Southern

Posted on: 23 April 2004 by Freddy Dyke

Dear Pat,
It is difficult to contact you as your
address is so very vague,but I am sure
you are the right person,the daughter of Marge and Eddie Southern the only
aircrew saved by 'White Vision'.
As I have already written about this
wartime episode you can see what this is all about if you can refer to my
personal page entries of the National Pigeon Service of November the 22nd
2003.If it is possible for you to receive these 2 messages I have recorded I will look forward to you being able to use this website.
Best Wishes,
Freddy Dyke.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Royal Air Force Category
North Atlantic and Arctic Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy