Officials Ask for Help to Decipher WWII Code Found with Carrier Pigeon

Cryptographers struggle to decode a handwritten message found in an English chimney

A coded message found with a skeleton of the leg of a veteran carrier pigeon from WWII remains a mystery to Government officials.

The handwritten message was uncovered in august, in an English chimney, NBC writes. Top British cryptographers tried to break the code, but have come up empty so far.

It is made up of 27 five-letter code groups, and needs a code book to decipher. Both parties, in this case British intelligence agents during the war, would have required access to said key.

“The advantage of this system is that, if used correctly, it is unbreakable as long as the key is kept secret. The disadvantage is that both the sending and receiving parties need to have access to the same key, which usually means producing and sharing a large keypad in advance,” experts from GCHQ (UK Government Communications Headquarters) state.

“The senders would often have specialist code books in which each code group of four or five letters had a meaning relevant to a specific operation, allowing much information to be sent in a short message. For added security, the code groups could then themselves be encrypted,” the statement on the GCHQ website adds.

The message was signed “Sjt W Stot,” which includes the abbreviation “Sjt” used for Sergeant at the time; however, no such officer exists in British army records. The message refers to an unknown location, mentioned as “X02.”

The pigeons themselves were identified by a code-name in the messages they carried. This particular sheet of paper included two such numbers, NURP.40.TW.194 and NURP.37.OK.76, but none of them belonged to a registered carrier pigeon.

Anyone can take a swing at cracking the code, as intelligence agencies are now enlisting the help of the public in solving this mystery.

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