it's a scared war virgin with a pencil and notepad in
his hand or a multi-million pound, high-tech news crew,
the words and images from the frontline have shaped
how the world perceives war, from its political reasons
to its practical horrors.
William Howard Russell, probably the first war correspondent,
described himself as ‘the miserable parent of
a luckless tribe’. Russell (1820–1907),
reported on the Crimean war for The Times and went on
to report on the American civil war, and the Zulu wars.
The 20th century brought the realities of war into
our homes via the radio and then television and by the
1980's the 24 hour news channel meant a captivated audience
of millions watched safely at home as cameras in aircraft
showed ‘smart’ bombs destroying bridges,
buildings, and vehicles. Even more vivid were the pictures
transmitted by miniature cameras in the noses of the
bombs or missiles themselves.
The US field manual FM 100–5 recognizes that
the importance of understanding the impact of raw television
coverage is ‘not so that commanders can control
it, but so they can anticipate adjustments to their
operations and plans’. In 1995 the former BBC
journalist Martin Bell, a man in harms way more than
most, said that ‘the media and the military are
partners in the same enterprise’.
In the 21st century, news gathering in general and
war news in particular is reported at lightening speed
- the military leaders of today have to consider the
implications of their actions due to the intrepid war
correspondents and their hi-tech team who can beam live
pictures to millions of homes around the globe.
D-Day News Gathering
Back in 1944 however, things were very different as
this small news column from the Belfast Telegraph shows
RAF BEACH SQUADRON, H.Q.
army has thought of everything, including carrier
pigeons to carry the big news home if all else
A wing commander arrived here only a few hours
before I embarked on my landing ship tank and
presented me with a basket of four pigeons, complete
with food and message-carrying equipment.
Telegraph 6th June 1944
pigeon - Paddy, was awarded the Dicken Medal
- the equivalent of the Victoria Cross - the
only bird in Ireland to hold this honour.
Paddy was the first bird from hundreds to return
to England with news of D-Day on the beaches.
He was trained by Carnlough man John McMullan.
Click on the picture below to see the BBC NI
Newsline programme about this famous bird.
The internet, email and mobile phone technology has
empowered a modern generation with up to the minute
news bites showing every detail of battle, almost instantaneously.
Millions tuned in to watch the live CNN broadcasts of
Desert Storm in 1991 and the current Iraqi campaign.
The sheer size of news traffic around the world today
is vast. However the statistics below contrast the gulf
in volume of information transferred in 1944 compared
Cable and Wireless advert 6th June 1944
An advert for
the company Cable and Wireless in the Irish
News on D Day, proudly claimed how their messages
"always went through" helping the
war effort and adding that ..
2 million words pass through the central telegraph
station of Cable and Wireless every day"..
That figure would
have been impressive in 1944, but today it's
estimated that 3 billion emails
are sent on an average day, with an almost incalculable
number of words within them.
When news of the invasion did reach Northern Ireland,
the hunger for information was just as acute as it is
today, with newspapers and radio the main resource.
In among the ever-present adverts for all manner of
cures such as Phensic, Rennies and Bob Martin's Condition
Powder Tablets for dogs, The Belfast Telegraph gauged
the feeling of the public as the greatest ever military
June 6th, 1944 Belfast - People crowd together
to read the news of D-Day.
was with mingled feelings of pride, joy and determination
that citizens of Belfast heard that D -Day had
arrived . The news which spread like wildfire,
had an electrifying effect on the population.
One could sense an atmosphere of grim expectancy
and restrained hopefulness. Nowhere was there
any sign of foolish, unbridled optimism......
....... during the day the Belfast Telegraph was
inundated with telephone calls asking for the
latest reports. When boys appeared on the streets
with the noon edition they were besieged by pedestrians.
Motorists and in some cases tram drivers stopped
to buy the papers which were quickly sold out."
On the Big Screen
The Picture House mirrors D-Day ?
In Belfast theatres this message from Sir Basil Brooke
was flashed up on the screens - "The
invasion of Europe has begun. God speed to our fighting
forces and our Allies. May the victory be swift, complete,
The cinema listings in the Irish News, on the 6th June
1944, reveal what was playing as D-Day began:-
The Imperial was showing Dixie with
Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, The Capitol ran with
Algiers starring Charles Boyer and
Hedy Larmarr, while at the Curzon The Bells
of Capistrano featured Gene Autry and Smiley
Perhaps the most telling film title was showing at the
Picture House - Flight to Freedom,
starring Fred MacMurray, Rosalino Russell and Herbert
For more news items on the Normandy landings log on
to the BBC
News online site which also celebrates 60 years
What do you remember about that day in June 1944 ?
Where were you and what were your immediate thoughts?
Perhaps you were already on one of the ships bound for
the beaches of Normandy yourself?
Send us your comments below.
James White - Aug '06
Brilliant true story on "Paddy The Pigeon,"
many of these birds saved so many lives and the public
really don't know or younger generation maybe don't
want to know , but if it weren't for these gallant birds,
a lot wouldn't be here today, would really appreciate
if you could send me the full story on the great "paddy".
Gerard Kirwan - Jan '06
Paddy the putman racing pigeon was a great pigeon to
have done this. Is there any more putman racing pigeons
around? Ireland or Birmingham uk long distance racing