Ken’s Korner: Dead pigeon found with WWII message
News & Views From the World of Antiques & Collectibles
By Ken Hall
David Martin of Surrey, England was restoring the chimney of his 17th century home in 1982 when he began coming across bits of dead pigeon remains. Then something caught his eye: a red capsule on one of the legs of the bird’s skeleton. It turned out to contain a coded message from Allied forces during World War II, probably dispatched from Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944, during the D-Day Invasion. The small cylinder containing a mysterious cigarette-paper sized encrypted message has just now been made public.
What does the message say? That’s what code breakers at Britain’s GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) are now trying to determine. Homing pigeons played an active role in World War II. England’s Royal Air Force trained 250,000 birds, forming the National Pigeon Service. Military pigeons were dropped behind enemy lines by bombers, then resistance fighters picked them up before releasing them, homeward bound, with top-secret messages. It’s a mystery as to why or how this pigeon ended up in a chimney.