Help Wanted: Codebreakers needed to crack WWII secret pigeon code

Calling all “Da Vinci Code” fans, dabbling cryptanalysts and smart kids at MIT: Britain’s super-secret spy agencies have admitted they are stumped by a coded message from World War II found recently attached to the leg of a dead carrier pigeon stuck in a chimney in southern England, according to a London-based newspaper. article-2226203-15CC0406000005DC-295_306x423

While renovating his home, homeowner David Martin discovered the pigeon’s skeletal remains and a red canister containing the coded message. The message was turned over to Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, which is now asking for help from retired codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park during the war. The hope is these former analysts may recognize the code and offer some context to help crack it.

“The sort of codes that were constructed to be used during operations were designed only to be read by the senders and the recipients,” a government communications historian told BBC Radio 4’s “Today Programme,” according to a Telegraph story. “Unless you get rather more idea than we have about who actually sent the message and who it was sent to we are not going to be able to find out what the underlying code was.”

The newspaper also had this to say about what is known:

HQ Bletchley Park, in Buckinghamshire

“Historians believe the bird was almost certainly dispatched from Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944, during the D-Day invasions. It is thought that the bird was destined for the top secret Bletchley Park, which was just 80 miles from Mr. Martin’s home. The message was sent to XO2 at 16:45. The destination X02 was believed to be Bomber Command, while the sender’s signature at the bottom of the message read Serjeant W Stot.”

Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters issued a statement on its website saying it was able to narrow down the dead pigeon’s identity to one of two possible pigeons in their service at the time.

The Telegraph newspaper solicits ideas from expert and amateur codebreakers alike: “Send your solutions to [email protected], with an explanation of how it can be done.”

Perhaps those of you who can’t remember your own usernames and passwords need not apply.


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