History Strange War

Secrets of the Lost D-Day Pigeon

… a carrier pigeon dispatched by the invasion force to relay secret messages back across the Channel never made it home to its base. Instead the bird got stuck in a chimney only to be discovered 70 years later, it’s secret communique still attached to its skeleton in a red capsule.

The message is so secret that it is written in code long since forgotten by the security services.

Now the Government Communications Headquarter (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, Glos, is hoping to decipher the note in a bid to unravel the mystery. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association believe the bird probably either got lost, disorientated in bad weather, or was simply exhausted after its trip across the Channel.

Its remains were discovered by David Martin when he ripped out a fireplace and found it in the chimney while renovating his home in Bletchingley, Surrey. Historians believe the bird was almost certainly dispatched from Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944 – During the D-Day invasions.

Due to Winston Churchill’s radio blackout, homing pigeons were taken on the D-Day invasion and released by Allied Forces to inform military Generals back on English soil how the operation was going. “It’s a real mystery and I cannot wait for the secret message to be decoded,” Mr Martin said.

“It really is unbelieveable.”

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 and contained 27 codes, each made up of five letters or numbers. The destination X02 was believed to be Bomber Command, while the sender’s signature at the bottom of the message read Serjeant W Stot.

Experts said the spelling of Serjeant was significant, because the RAF used J, while the Army used G. During the war, Codebreakers worked there round the clock in top secret – deciphering Nazi codes including Enigma. …

Pigeon enthusiasts – commonly known as “fanciers” – were calling for Mr Martin’s mysterious military bird to be posthumously decorated with the Dickin Medal – the highest possible decoration for valour given to animals.

via Quest to crack secrets of lost D-Day pigeon – Telegraph.

Here’s a follow up to the mystery:

The message reads:








It can now be revealed the message was sent by Sergeant William Stott, a 27-year-old paratrooper from the Lancashire Fusiliers who was parachuted into occupied Normandy on a reconnaisance mission. It is believed he was sent there to assess the strength of the German occupation in that area, and then sent the message to HQ Bomber Command at RAF High Wycombe. His message told RAF officers that he was updating as required, and he was also requesting information after being parachuted behind enemy lines early in the morning.

He was killed in action a few weeks after sending the message, which has now been party decoded by the Canadian research team. Gord Young, a researcher from Peterborough in Ontario, said: “We have been able to unravel most but not all of the so-called unbreakable code of the pigeon remains. …

The researchers now believe the message reads:

"Artillery observer at 'K' Sector, Normandy. Requested 

headquarters supplement report. Panzer attack - blitz. 

West Artillery Observer Tracking Attack. Lt Knows extra 

guns are here. Know where local dispatch station is. 

Determined where Jerry's headquarters front posts. 

Right battery headquarters right here. Found headquarters 

infantry right here. Final note, confirming, found Jerry's 

whereabouts. Go over field notes. Counter measures 

against Panzers not working. Jerry's right battery central 

headquarters here. Artillery observer at 'K' sector Normandy. 

Mortar, infantry attack panzers. Hit Jerry's Right or Reserve 

Battery Here. Already know electrical engineers headquarters. 

Troops, panzers, batteries, engineers, here. Final note 

known to headquarters."

Other parts of the code require further deciphering but Mr Young thinks they may be confusing on purpose to dupe German soliders who may have picked up the letter.

Interesting that the 135 character coded message can be decoded into so much text, about 100 words. At first I thought A might stand for Artillery, but it’s obviously more complicated than that.

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Quite interesting!

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