An Ontario man says he has solved something that's stumped even Britain's top spy agency. He says he's cracked the code of a secret message dating back to the Second World War that was attached to the skeletal remains of a war-time carrier pigeon.
Before satellites, before computers, before cellphones — there was the pigeon.
Highly trained, incredibly skilled carrier pigeons delivered messages between allied troops in Europe.
A quarter of a million pigeons were deployed during the Second World War.
But sometimes even pigeons became casualties of war.
One ended up in a chimney in Surrey, England, and was never found until David Martin and his wife Anne recently started restoring their house.
"Down came the leg with a red capsule on it with a message inside," said Martin. "Unbelievable. Unbelievable. It was like Christmas. We couldn't believe it"
Inside the red capsule was an encoded message: 27 blocks of five letters each.
Code breakers at Britain's top spy agency haven't been able to figure out what it means.
But Gord Young of Peterborough, Ont., believes he has.
And even though Young is sick with the flu, he was anxious to interpret the first block of letters in the message.
It says, "artillery observer/spotter at K-sector Normandy."
Young is a history buff. He deciphered the message using a book of codes from the First World War. He says the message is written in simple military shorthand.
"This is shorthand. The acronyms are shorthand," he told CBC News.
The message is all about German troops and artillery locations in Normandy and Young says he figured it out in less than 20 minutes.
So why couldn't the British spy service?
Young says it was probably fooled into trying to crack a sophisticated super-spy type code when the one in front of them was really very simple.
"I suspect they were looking for Sir William Stevenson-type of coding rather than simple basic artillery [code] so they can drop shells on the Panzer tanks that are charging the British line."
The British government remains doubtful that Young has cracked the code.
But it is interested in looking at his findings.