In 1982, David Martin and his wife Anne were renovating your 17th century fireplace at his home in Bletchingle, Surrey. The fireplace had been sealed for many years and the Martins wanted to restore it to its former glory.
When they started renovating the protective asbestos lines, they found under them another fireplace of Victorian origin. Excited by the find, the Martins began to thoroughly clean the chimney, which in all those years had been a perfect home for the birds, which had filled it with dry twigs and different materials for their nests. But, by throwing away all those branches, some bird bones appeared among the remains, first a sternum, then a skull, and then a leg surrounded by an aluminum ring.
That hoop made them realize that the bones that were in the nest they were not those of an ordinary bird, but that this animal had been trained as a racing bird. They continued to remove remains and found the second leg, which was hooked to a red plastic capsule. The red color of the capsule indicated that the bird had been nothing more and nothing less than a carrier pigeon of the allied forces in World War II.
«I wonder if it's a secret message»Whispered Mrs. Martin,and who was going to say! when inspecting the capsule they finally found a secret message inside. It was an encrypted document, had 27 groups of five letters and numbers, written on thin paper the size of a cigarette paper.
The only parts that were legible indicated the number of copies sent (two: the copy that one of the dove's companions brought) and the name of the issuer, Sergeant W. Stot.
The Martins taught the message to one of their neighbors, the secret agent and commander Wilfred "Biffy" Dunderdale, an espionage specialist who worked with the British Secret Intelligence Services between 1921 and 1959. Biffy was an inveterate fan of women and racing cars, and around this time he became the head of the Paris SIS station (later known as MI6).
He smoked the Balkan brand of cigarettes from a black ebony mouthpiece, and drove a huge, armored Rolls-Royce all over town. Ian Fleming, then a rookie Naval Intelligence recruit, met Dunderdale in Paris in 1940. After the war they were both members of the same club, Boodle's on St. James's Street, where Dunderdale would provide his colleagues with a multitude of details on all the stories in which he had been involved.
His intense personality and exciting adventures, including that of the German Enigmas, smugglers who coded machines from Poland to Paris in 1939, would end up inspiring Fleming to create the fictional character: Bond, James Bond.
After retiring from the Services, Biffy moved to Bletchingley, coincidentally a few houses lower than the Martins.
Mr. Martin recalls that then: «When I showed him the bird, the blood drained from his face and he advised us to give up the search. He never said anything else about it«. And during all those years, Biffy never uttered a single word related to this strange discovery.
In 1982, Britain was mired in the Falklands WarTherefore, the British were not interested in finding out what a carrier pigeon had tried to communicate to them 40 years earlier. It was the pigeon community, the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, military homing pigeon fans, those who echoed the case and began to join forces to get the government to pay attention to that finding.
Two years ago, Bletchley Park, the headquarters of set-top boxes during WWII which is currently a museum, took an interest in the secret message. Although they have not yet cracked the code, they have discovered that the message is something special. During the war, Bletchley Park had a classified loft (MI6), but none of those messages were sent in code.
Colin Hill, permanent curator of Bletchley Park at the exhibition of War pigeons, commented that all the messages that the pigeons carried, and that they themselves store in their files, were written by hand. That means this bird was carrying a more secret message than those the decoders have collected.
Furthermore, under the coded message were two lines on which the numerical codes of two birds could be read. NURP 40TW194 is the military courier pigeon that was buried in the Martin chimney. NURP 37DK76 was his companion, who carried the same message. This fact doubly underscores how important this message should be, as no information on these two birds has been found in the historical archives. The same birds were top secret to the allies.
Bletchingley is halfway between the beaches of Normandy and Bletchley Park, a very suitable place for an exhausted and heroic pigeon decided to take a break at the top of a fireplace, and which the smoke surprised causing it to fall inside. The site is also just five miles from Field Marshal Montgomery's headquarters in Reigate, Surrey, where the planned Normandy landings were planned.
Given the insistence of Winston churchill in which a complete radio blackout occurred to carry out the D-Day trading, this pigeon might as well have been carrying a message for the general who was on the Normandy front.
The National Pigeon Service deployed a total of 250,000 homing pigeons during World War II. 32 of these have received Dickin Medal, the highest decoration for the value that can be given to an animal. Perhaps 40TW194, I managed post mortem, to be recognized for the services that he rendered to his country, services that were charged with his life.