News your connection to The Boston Globe

Viscountess Dilhorne; trained WWII pigeons

LONDON -- The dowager Viscountess Dilhorne, who trained pigeons to carry secret communications from the rest of Europe in World War II, has died at 93, her son John said yesterday.

Viscountess Dilhorne died March 25 at her home in Northamptonshire county in central England, Viscount Dilhorne said.

During World War II, Mary Manningham-Buller -- as she was known before her husband was given a title -- trained carrier pigeons in a small village in Oxfordshire, west of London.

Secret agents and resistance fighters in Europe used them to communicate with London. The birds flew back to Miss Manningham-Buller with coded messages strapped to their legs.

She was the widow of the 1st Viscount Dilhorne, formerly Reginald Manningham-Buller, who was lord chancellor, or England's chief legal officer, from 1962 to 1964. Her daughter, Eliza Manningham-Buller, has been director-general of the Security Service since 2002.

Born Mary Lilian Lindsay, Viscountess Dilhorne was the fourth of six daughters of Lord Balcarres, a lawmaker whose many public roles included president of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, minister of transport and trustee of several leading museums.

After being presented to the British Court, she received a number of marriage proposals, but chose Manningham-Buller, a poor young lawyer. They married in 1930 and had a son and three daughters.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives