Wartime message stumps codebreakers

2012-11-23 22:08
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

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London - A secret wartime message found on the leg of a dead pigeon in a chimney in Britain has proved too much of a challenge to crack for 21st century codebreakers, experts said on Friday.

The hand-written message, penned on a small sheet of paper headed "Pigeon Service", was found in a tiny red container attached to the bird's skeleton that was discovered in a chimney in a house in Surrey, southern England, a few weeks ago.

But experts of Britain's GCHQ intelligence headquarters said on Friday that the message, which has 27 five-letter code groups, is impossible to crack without its codebook.

They were also left stumped by missing details, such as the date of the message and the identities of the sender - Sjt W Stot - and the recipient, X02.

GCHQ said it would now look for help from the public to solve the riddle - especially from people who worked in communications during World War II who might still be alive.

About 250 000 pigeons were used during the war by the armed forces and each was given an identity number. There are two pigeon identification numbers in the message in question.

"Although it is disappointing that we cannot yet read the message brought back by a brave carrier pigeon, it is a tribute to the skills of the wartime code-makers that, despite working under severe pressure, they devised a code that was indecipherable both then and now," said a GCHQ spokesperson.

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