A man discovered the skeleton of a veteran carrier pigeon with a secret WWII message attached to its leg – in his chimney.
Stunned David Martin, 74, found the stricken bird when he opened the disused fire place while renovating his home.
The bird still had a secret coded message from the Second World War hidden in a red capsule attached to its leg.
It is thought the pigeon – carrying top secret war information back home to the UK from Nazi Germany – may have stopped on the chimney and become overcome with fumes.
The message has been sent to wartime decoding HQ Bletchley park, Bucks., then passed on to modern day spooks at GCHQ in Cheltenham, Gloucs.
Code-crackers are now frantically trying to decipher the message, which never reached its intended recipient.
Historians believe the message, which was written by a Sergeant W. Stott, will provide unique insight into WWII.
Boffins believe the pigeon and coded message may have been flying back from Nazi Germany to General Montgomery Headquarters in Reigate, Surrey.
Martin, a former assistant chief probation officer, who lives with his wife Anne, 74, said: “I could not believe it when it popped out it was truly amazing.
“We were stunned it was like Christmas had come early.
“The chimney was full of hundreds of twigs and rubbish and then I just started finding various bits of a dead pigeon.
“My wife and I though it might just be a racing pigeon at first until we spotted the red capsule and our eyes just lit up.
“I can’t wait to find out is in the hidden message.
“We are based near Monty’s old HQ so it could have been a secret message for him.
“I hope it is something interesting it will be amazing if we discover an unknown detail from such an important part British history.”
The message contains 27 codes, each made up of combinations of five numbers and letters, and was sent to X02 at 16.25.
The destination X02 is believed to be the secret code for Bomber Command, High Wycombe, Bucks., and it is believed the message was sent by an airman because Sergeant was spelt with a J.
Sergeant was spelled with a ‘J’ in the RAF, but with a ‘G’ in the army.
Colin Hill, a volunteer for the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and the curator of Bletchley Park’s permanent ‘Pigeons at War’ exhibition, said: “We have more than 30 messages from WWII carrier pigeons in our exhibition, but not one is in code.
“The message Mr Martin found must be highly top secret.
“The aluminium ring found on the bird’s leg tells us it was born in 1940 and we know it’s an Allied Forces pigeon because of the red capsule it was carrying – but that’s all we know.”
Colin is now working with a crack team of exerts using WW2 log books to decode the pigeon’s cigarette paper sized message.
Mr Martin’s home in Surrey is close to the hotel in Reigate where General Montgomery secretly planned the D-Day invasion and kept military pigeon lofts.
Homing pigeons were taken on the D-Day invasion and released by Allied Forces to inform military Generals back on English shores that the operation was going to plan.
Pigeons have been used as military messengers throughout history.
They can reach speeds of more than 50mph, cover distances of 700 miles and are considered to be the Top Gun natural navigators of the animal kingdom.
Colin Hill added: “The bird found in the chimney may well have been flying back to Monty’s HQ or Bletchley Park from Nazi occupied Normandy during the invasion.
“I can only presume it became exhausted and attempted to rest on an open chimney where it valiantly perished.”
But other experts believe the message as going to bomber command.
Neville Walbridge, 74, who has also been trying to crack the code, believes that it carries an important message.
He said: “I have come to the conclusion that it’s top secret because the destination was X02 – the commanding officer of Bomber Command.
“Personally, I think this was asking for a raid somewhere.
“I feel sure this message was going to somewhere like Bletchley Park, somewhere where people could decipher the code.”