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The UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is reporting that its experts "are now satisfied that the pigeon-borne message assumed to have been sent during the Second World War cannot be decoded without access to the original cryptographic material."
The carrier pigeon's skeleton was recently found in the chimney of a house in Bletchingley, Surrey, with a coded message in a small red canister attached to the pigeon's leg bone.
"The pigeon is reckoned to have flown from Nazi-occupied France, possibly during the D-Day invasions, in June of 1944, and codebreakers at the intelligence agency have been trying to figure out what its message says," writes The Register's Brid-Aine Parnell. "But the problem is that the code could be a one-off encryption, which only the sender and the recipient would have had a key for."
"'We didn't really hold out any hopes we would be able to read the message because the sort of codes that were constructed to be used during operations were designed only to be able to be read by the senders and the recipients,' said GCHQ historian Tony, who asked that only his first name be used," BBC News reports.
"They have now appealed to retired codebreakers who worked at GCHQ’s predecessor, Bletchley Park, and others who may have worked in military signals during the war to offer their expertise," writes The Independent's Nina Lakhani. "Those who are still alive are likely to be in their nineties but their memories may be sharp enough to recognise the type of code used, and explain how it could be deciphered."
"A spokesman for GCHQ 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,'" writes The Telegraph's Hannah Furness.