From mid-September 1870 until the end of January 1871, Paris was besieged by Prussian forces. The pioneering balloonist and photographer (and father of aerial photography) Nadar - demonstrated how to fly in a balloon over the enemy and land in safe territory beyond the Prussian Army. After that, however, he was unable to help his fellow Parisians, as he had no way to get back into the city.
During the siege, 65 balloons were released, carrying mail to landing places all over Europe, where it was then taken to bases at Tours and Poitiers. The new process of microfilm was used to send the replies back to Paris using carrier pigeons, which had also been sent in the balloons. The Prussians devised special anti-aircraft balloon guns and shot many of the returning pigeons as well as deploying hawks against them – only 57 of the 355 pigeons returned. The messages were repeatedly re-sent until they were acknowledged, some as many as 30 . One heroic pigeon transported 18 microfilms containing 54,000 documents. During the four months of the siege, 150,000 official and one million private communications were carried into Paris by this method.
Medieval castles were designed with sheltered, south-facing holes – where semi-wild pigeons could nest. The birds were free to come and go during a siege – finding their own food - which meant that they ensured a free source of food for the people trapped in the castle. They were considered ‘wondrous fruitfull’ as they would often obligingly hatch a new brood of chicks while the previous lot were still being eaten.
One of the postal balloons sent during the Siege accidentally set a world distance record - ended up in Norway.
During the siege, Parisians ate all the animals in the zoo, including the two elephants Castor and Pollux, and anything else they could find. Restaurant menus at the
· Horse Consommé with Millet.
· Grilled Dog’s Liver.
· Sliced Saddle of Cat with Mayonnaise.
· Stewed Cat with Mushrooms.
· Dog Chops with Peas.
· Rat Ragout in Brown Mustard Sauce.
· Dog Gigots flanked by Baby Rats.
· Begonias in Juice.
· Plum Pudding with Rum and Horse Marrow.
The fashionable restaurant Voisin’s raided the zoo and the sewers for the ingredients for Christmas dinner. Their menu included: Consommé of Elephant, Braised Kangaroo, Antelope Paté, and Whole Cat Garnished with Rats.
During the Siege of Paris, 150,000 official and a million private communications were carried into Paris by pigeon.
When the Germans attacked Paris in June 1940, it was 140th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat of the Austrians at Marengo.
During the Siege of Paris, infant mortality fell by 40% because mothers were forced to abandon bottles and breastfeed.
Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.