Harley was distraught when his father packed Lofty, Harley’s favourite racing pigeon into the pigeon hamper to take to the Army. War was raging and the Army needed strong dependable pigeons to help deliver messages and Lofty, after special training, was going to help fight in New Guinea.
Lofty or Number 371 served outstandingly in New Guinea, his message-bearing flight saving an Australian platoon surrounded by the enemy. Back in Australia, Harley has contracted polio and his favourite pigeon has been injured, and no longer able to fly. When Harley receives in the mail an award for Lofty, a Dickin Medal for conspicuous gallantry Harley fears for his safety. But he is alive and well and on his way home.
Lofty’s Mission is a simple yet heart-warming tale of a little-known aspect of war service, the use of homing pigeons. The creativity of David Miller’s 3D paper sculptures gives extra depth and life to the story.
Homing pigeons have been used to carry messages since ancient times. Messenger pigeons have numerous advantages in wartime. They are easy to transport, eat very little and can travel quickly. If captured, there is no evidence of their origin or destination. With an average speed of around 90 kms per hour over moderate distances, they are faster than a runner, a cyclist, or a man on horseback.
A glossary at the end of the book gives additional information about the breeding of homing pigeons and their use in wartime and an explanation of other terms used in the story.