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Pigeon's Message Has Code-Breakers Stumped

A secret Second World War message found attached to the leg of a dead pigeon has left code-breakers flummoxed.

The code, hand-written on a sheet of paper headed Pigeon Service, was found in a small red canister attached to the bird's leg bone.

Experts from UK intelligence agency GCHQ were alerted to the message by David Martin, who found the pigeon's skeleton up the chimney at his home in Bletchingley, Surrey, whilst he was renovating.

But GCHQ have said the message, which has 27 five-letter code groups, is impossible to crack without its code book.

Investigators 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.

A GCHQ spokesman said: "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."

During the war specialist code books would contain the keys to groups of four or five letters, which had a meaning relevant to a specific operation.

Some 250,000 pigeons were seconded during the Second World War.

They were used by all arms of the services as well as the Special Operations Executive and carried a wide variety of messages, flying the gauntlet of enemy hawk patrols and soldiers taking pot shots at them to bring vital information back to Britain from mainland Europe.