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GCHQ codebreakers stumped by Second World War pigeon-borne message

By EchoMichael  |  Posted: November 23, 2012

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CODEBREAKERS at GCHQ have been left stumped by a pigeon-borne message believed to have been sent during the Second World War.

Experts at the spy centre say they cannot decipher the message without access to the codebooks used to create it.

The message was discovered attached to the remains of a pigeon leg in a chimney in Surrey a few weeks ago.

A GCHQ spokesman said: "Unfortunately, much of the vital information that would indicate the context of the message is missing.

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"It is undated, and the meaning of the destination – given as 'X02' – is unknown.

"Similarly, while the sender's signature appears to say 'Sjt W Stot', nothing is known of this individual or their unit."

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."

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  • ignoramous  |  November 24 2012, 8:15PM

    to elljay1, i made no unpleasant comments and as i very seldom comment at all i very much doubt wether you have ever had to skip over any

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  • EllJay1  |  November 24 2012, 1:46PM

    Ignoramous - perhaps someone reported you because of the unpleasant comments that you make! I normally skip over your comments but felt that I had to reply to this.

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  • ignoramous  |  November 24 2012, 12:59PM

    why has my comment been censored? no doubt it was gchq as they now listen to all our phone calls and read our emails

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  • Dave_t10  |  November 24 2012, 2:08AM

    Another half cooked TIG article, other news sources have reported this in far more detail, you would expect better from the local rag where the HQ actually resides. @ ignoramous Other articles have reported that the message was encoded on a one-time pad making them essentially unbreakable if the correct process was followed such as not reusing the same code and destroying the pad after use. So its nothing to do with the ability of the current staff, even 70 years ago it would have been unbreakable unless they could have connected some clues to what it may read. You also seem to fail to consider that they may not have considered it worth spending much time on, given than the value in breaking this code is almost certainly zero.

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  • Bonkim2003  |  November 24 2012, 12:39AM

    What a silly thing to say Ignoramous - appropriately named I must add. These were clever people, good organisers and did their jobs well - the codes were between the sender and the recipient, how do you know there were not back up pigeons involved for each mission, also that they had a fall-back plan. This was not a one of code practice - many missions simultaneously over the War years organising the underground in differrent oparts of Europe, just think of the huge organisational task of managing all the agents on location, their handlers and supervisors in the U.K and other locations, the complex coordination of all these people, material supply chain, command and control web, etc, etc, the mind boggles - and the codes - the huge numbers, the complex web of ciphers, keeping track of actions, communications using radio equipment of the day and difficulty timing, radio communications, etc, etc. They were a dedicated lot and not the winging types you see today. Over 70 years now and those guys were a cut above - the best brains of Britain, and the Commonwealth at the time.

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  • Coingrass  |  November 23 2012, 10:56PM

    Perhaps it's just as well this message never reached its final destination. The original message read: SEND REINFORCEMENTS WE ARE GOING TO ADVANCE. However, after being relayed through several intermediaries, it now reads SEND THREE AND FOURPENCE WE ARE GOING TO A DANCE.

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