2 Nov 2012

Wartime coded message found on pigeon's remains

10:20 pm on 2 November 2012

The remains of a World War II carrier pigeon still bearing a secret coded message have been found in the chimney of a house in Britain.

Some 250,000 pigeons were used on on active service during the war, flying messages in little canisters strapped to their legs across enemy lines.

Some were also carried in bombers to be released in case of a crash. But one pigeon never made it home, the ABC reports.

David Martin found the bird's bones in the chimney of his Surrey home when he was renovating the fireplace.

"About three handfuls of rubbish later, down came the leg with the red capsule on with a message."

The capsule is the type used by spies who worked in occupied Europe.

The 70-year-old message was written by a Sergeant W Stott and is in code - which points to one destination.

Only about a dozen pigeons were based at the top secret Bletchley Park where Britain's brightest code breakers lived and worked.

But Colin Hill from the Bletchley Park pigeon exhibition can't make sense of the code.

"All the messages that we've ever looked at have always been longhand, you know, that made two of us really sit and think that there is something a little bit special about this one."

Modern-day code breakers from the Government Communications Headquarters are on the case. If they can crack it, there is hope that the leg and the canister may at least shed light on a fragment of wartime history.