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article imageWWII 'spy pigeon' coded message leaves decoders stumped

By Greta McClain     Nov 23, 2012 in World
The coded message found attached to the remains of a "spy pigeon" has left British intelligence agency decoders stumped.
Earlier this month, the remains of a World War II carrier pigeon was found in the chimney of a home in Surrey, England. The remains, which were found by David Martin during a renovation project of his chimney, had a red canister attached a leg. Inside the canister, a piece of paper which said “Pigeon Service” at the top, followed by 27 handwritten blocks of code, was found. According to The Register, it is believed that the pigeon was carrying the message from Nazi-occupied France. The code was written by Sergeant W Stott.
The Daily Mail says the banding ring on the bird's leg indicates it was born in 1940. The red canister shows that it was definitely an Allied Forces pigeon, but nothing about the bird's destination or the message it was carrying is known.
Some believe the message may be a bombing raid request. Another theory is that the message was heading to Field Marshal Montgomery’s HQ in Reigate, Surrey. Homing "spy pigeons" were used during the D-Day invasion and sent back to England with updates regarding the operation. Some believe the pigeon found was carrying once such message.
There has also been speculation that the message may have been sent by Special Operations Executive agent, although that theory is been largely discounted since undercover agents did not carry official note pads in case of capture.
WWII coded message found on the remains of a  spy pigeon
WWII coded message found on the remains of a "spy pigeon"
Natural Bushcraft
Coding experts believe the message might have been coded in one of two ways. One method would have been to use a so-called "one-time pad" that applies a random "key" to the message. The key is known only to the sender and recipient and is often times unbreakable. The other method would have been to use a code based on a code-book put together for a specific operation. Experts believe the code-book has most likely been destroyed, which could also make it impossible to decode the message.
Since it's discovery, Britain’s top code-breakers have attempted to decipher the coded message to determine which theory may be correct. A GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) historian, known only as Tony, told War History Online:
“We {don't} really hold out any hopes we would be able to read the message because the sort of codes that were constructed to be used during operations were designed only to be able to be read by the senders and the recipients.”
Experts have not completely given up hope however. Tony told the BBC:
"There are still quite a lot of people alive who worked in communications centers during the war and who might have some knowledge about this and it would be very interesting if anyone did have information if they could put it in the pot and we could see if we could get any further with it."
More about World war II, WwII, Pigeon, Spy, coded message
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