LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - A World War Two code found
strapped to the leg of a dead pigeon stuck in a chimney for the
last 70 years may never be broken, a British intelligence agency
said on Friday.
The bird was found by a man in Surrey, southern England
while he was cleaning out a disused fireplace at his home
earlier this month.
The message, a series of 27 groups of five letters each, was
inside a red canister attached to the pigeon's leg bone and has
stumped code-breakers from Government Communications
Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain's main electronic
"Without access to the relevant codebooks and details of any
additional encryption used, it will remain impossible to
decrypt," a GCHQ spokesman said.
The message is consistent with the use of code books to
translate messages which were then encrypted, according to GCHQ,
one of Britain's three intelligence agencies.
However without knowing who the sender, "Sjt W Stot", is or
the intended destination, given as "X02", it is extremely
difficult to decipher the code, GCHQ said.
Although the code books and encryption systems used should
have been destroyed, there is a small chance that one exists
A spokesman for GCHQ said it was "disappointing" that the
message brought back by a "brave" carrier pigeon cannot be read.
He added: "It is a tribute to the skills of the wartime
code-makers that, despite working under severe pressure, they
devised a code that was undecipherable both then and now."
The Curator of the Pigeon Museum at Bletchley Park, north of
London, Britain's main code-breaking centre during World War
Two, is also trying to trace the identity numbers of the pigeon
found in the message, according to GCHQ.
Pigeons were used extensively in the war to carry vital
information to Britain from mainland Europe. Flying at speeds of
up to 80 km per hour, they can travel distances of up to 1,000
km but were vulnerable to hungry hawks and bored soldiers who
used to take pot-shots at them as they flew overhead.