More than a century after it was dispatched via carrier pigeon, a secret military message has been found by chance in the Alsace region of northeastern France.
The find, described as “super-rare,” was discovered by a retired couple out for a stroll in September this year. The tiny aluminum capsule, about the size of a thimble, was spotted in a field and taken to the nearby Linge Museum.
Inside the capsule was the message, written in barely legible German on a kind of tracing paper. The message appears to carry the date 1910 or 1916. The First World War took place from 1914 to 1918.
Dominique Jardy, curator of the Linge Museum, Orbey, in eastern France, thinks 1910 is more likely, Le Parisien reports.
He described the dispatch as “super-rare,” and told the paper the capsule was likely to have come to the surface of the soil over time like many military remains from the First World War.
The message from a German infantry soldier based at Ingersheim, then part of Germany but now in France, detailed military maneuvers apparently during World War I, and was addressed to a superior officer, said Jardy.
The curator contacted a German friend to help translate the text, which was written in German Gothic script.
The message read: “Platoon Potthof receives fire as they reach the western border of the parade ground, platoon Potthof takes up fire and retreats after a while.
“In Fechtwald half a platoon was disabled. Platoon Potthof retreats with heavy losses,” according to the Guardian.
The museum, in Orbey, commemorates the battle for the hilltop of Le Linge in the Vosges Mountains in 1915—one of the bloodiest encounters of the 1914—18 war.
Carrier pigeons boasted a 95 percent success rate of delivery across Europe during the First World War, according to the US Army’s Signal Corps. On this occasion though, it seems the dispatch failed to arrive.
However, the note also indicated there were three other copies of the message carried via homing pigeon, presumably contingencies for the one found more than a century later, reported the New York Post.
The message, and its container, will now be exhibited at the museum.