The tragic and enraging story of how Great Britain and lawful bigotry destroyed one of its greatest heroes. This is Alan Turing’s tale, and it will outrage and sadden you, if you have any humanity at all.

Alan Turing, hero.

Alan Turing, hero.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. In the darkest days of World War II, in 1942, Great  Britain held… but only held with the thinnest of thin red lines. Its valiant,  uncomplaining  people were worn, hungry, fearful and anxious and rightly  so, for never before had starving the nation into submission been so  possible, so likely. The Nazis had discovered their most potent and  inexorable tool, the empty, gnawing stomach.

The drill went something like this. The British needed so many million tons  of food imports to keep home and hearth alive. Without them mass starvation  loomed and the nation brought to its knees. Thus, all the Germans needed was  the means to achieve this result and victory must be theirs. Their weapon of deadly  purpose was the submarine and in the winter of this dismal, disheartening year the  wolf packs grew bloated on their easy prey.

Everyone knew the Yanks would come, were coming but when… when? Everyone  from Prime Minister Winston Churchill down believed it, knew it, prayed for it,  expected it… but when? And what could be done until they did?

This is where Alan Turing, just 30 that fateful year, and his fellow  geeks and  geniuses stepped forward to combat the deadly menace of the German silent  service with their magnificent brains, the best in Britain. Verily, never before had so  many owed so much to so few. Turing was arguably the best of these best which  only makes this outrageous tale the more egregious and shameful.

About Alan Turing, OBE, FRS, born 23 June 1912.

Abraham Lincoln once said that God must have loved the common man, he made  so many of him. God’s relationship with the exceptional man, the extraordinary man,  the genius has always been more equivocal and difficult, since they often challenge  the very existence of God Himself, as Alan Turing most assuredly did, though never  publicly or with contumely or rancor.

Turing was born into the glory days of the great British imperium, his father a  distinguished member of the Indian Civil Service, a Scotsman like so many who  administered the jewel in the crown. Such people, with their intricate pecking order  sustained an empire, getting the best of everything… and were unshakable in their  deep-seated point of view that they deserved it.

This was the world of pukka, polo, and POSH (port out, starboard home). This was  the Raj, reigned over by the King-Emperor, the Great Servant of God, the Master of  uncounted millions, the man Alan Turing did so much to save to fight another day, the  man who did so little for him, when so little was all that was required.

What you must know about young Turing is what everyone who knew him knew,  namely that he was intelligent to a degree none of them had ever seen before… and  would most likely never see again. What to do with Alan came to be the hot potato of  their lives and his, right to the bitter end. What kind of a boy was he?

Just one anecdote reveals. His very first day as a new student at the prestigious  Sherborne School in the market town of Sherborne in Dorset coincided with the 1926  General Strike. He could have stayed home like millions did. Instead he rode his bicycle  more than 60 miles from Southampton, stopping overnight at an inn, to be there… on time… whatever the obstacle. He was just 14, and this was his code for the remainder of his short, extraordinary life.

Solving advanced problems at 16.

Mathematical genius is often found in the very young, and so it was with young  Turing. He solved advance problems in 1927 without ever having studied even  elementary calculus. Next, aged 16, he encountered Albert Einstein’s work. Not only  did he grasp it, but he extrapolated Einstein’s questioning of Newton’s laws of motion.  In short he was a genius happy and productive in the company of those with the  highest human intelligence, who in turn welcomed him as a worthy member of their  rare and astonishing ilk. And as his colleagues in intellect esteemed him, so he ascended…

First-class honors graduate in mathematics, King’s College, Cambridge, 1935; elected  Fellow of King’s College, in 1935 at the startlingly young age of 22; PhD in mathematics  Princeton University,1938. Thus he demonstrated his mastery of his chosen subjects  in what came to be called artificial intelligence and computer science… and as a  cryptanalyst at the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code  breaking center. The Germans never knew what hit them.

Enter Winston Churchill.

Of course matters were not so simple as all that; they never are. Turing showed up at  GC & CS the first full day of war, September 4, 1939, only to discover the immemorial  ways in which the British go to battle, namely with disorganization, inefficiency, and  muddle from top to bottom. Thus the best brains in the world twiddled their thumbs at  Bletchley Park whilst the lesser men who commanded bumbled away the precious  days that were needed to defend against the realm’s most dangerous foe.

At last Turing couldn’t stand it another minute and so against all orders and protocol  on October 28,1941 he and his colleagues wrote to Prime Minister Churchill to tell how  much they could do if they had the comparative pittance they required for their important  work.

Think for a moment what would have occurred if Neville Chamberlain had still been prime  minister, or, worse, Lord Halifax.Think if this all-important, world-changing letter had been  sent through the usual, ineffectual bureaucratic channels. Think what would have happened  if there was no Turing and Germany’s unbroken codes had never been deciphered or  deciphered so late as to be useless. This moment, this letter, and Churchill’s immediate  response made all the difference. This is what is meant by fate and, perhaps, by  God’s will.

But the letter was written and sent and Churchill did respond, at once, his reply the very  essence of his leadership. “ACTION THIS DAY”, he ordered General Ismay. “Make sure  they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done.” On  November 18,1941, the chief of the secret service reported to Churchill that every  possible measure was underway. And so Turing and company got on with their crucial  work breaking the codes that Hitler needed for victory and Britain had to have or risk  Armageddon. It was a near run thing… but it was done. Thus did God and Alan Turing  save the King.

War won, every honor and reward should have rained upon him. Privy Council, peerage  of the realm, Order of Merit, the whole bag of tricks, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you  The Right Honorable The Baron Turing of Bletchley Park….”  Instead, he was fobbed  off with the kind of recognition reserved for pedestrian bureaucrats upon retirement. Why?  Because he chose the love of man, not just the love of mankind, and this was adjudged  by lesser men to be more important than all his great works combined. Thus instead  of honors, he was despised, disdained, dismissed, and ultimately destroyed.

The role of Henry Labouchere, MP, hater (1831-1912).

Henry Labouchere inherited a large fortune which enabled him to indulge his many  prejudices in politics, literature, journalism, and the theatre. Upon first encountering  this man you would consider him a citizen of the world, boulevardier, cosmopolitan,  amusing, sophisticated. However upon further acquaintance, you would discern not  cleverness but condescension, not wit but the whip. He was the master of the barb,  the put down, the purposefully hurtful comment, a man who lived to poison and  condemn.

His particular targets were Jews, especially Jews who didn’t know their place  and aimed to move up economically and socially.

He lashed out, too, and frequently against Queen Victoria and the Royal Family and  the Conservative Party and its many failures to recognize his many talents and reward  him accordingly.

And he loathed the very idea that a man should find love and comfort in the arms of  another man.

Thus in 1885 he drafted the Labouchere Amendment as a last-minute addition to a  Parliamentary Bill that had nothing to do with homosexuality. Without benefit of study,  debate, or consideration of any kind, the bill passed and in due course over 50,000 men  were charged and convicted of “gross indecency”, disgraced, imprisoned, marked for  life. The malicious legacy of Henry Labouchere, bigot, bit deep and long. One of its  victims was Alan Turing. Here’s how it happened.

In January, 1952 Turing (39) started a private, consensual relationship with Arnold  Murray (19). Turing’s house was burgled at this time and Murray fingered one of his  acquaintances as the culprit. Turing called in the police and during their questioning  admitted his relationship with Murray. Both men were charged with gross indecency  under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (1885). From that moment until the  day he died, Turing, the man who had done so much to save so many, found it impossible  to save himself.

Things rapidly spiralled out of control. His solicitor advised him to enter a guilty plea,  though Turing never thought he’d committed any crime. On this basis he was convicted.  The great hero of the war was given a choice. He could either go to prison, or be  placed on conditional probation and be given synthetic estrogen. He made the terrible  decision… continued estrogen treatment for one year… and was rendered impotent,  a man no longer. No consideration was given to his war work and service. Could  the  Nazis have hurt him much more?

Of course, Turing’s world crashed about him. He lost his security clearance, his job  and his access to the cryptograms he had done so much to solve. He had sought  love… he received systematic hatred, discrimination, and injury.

Alan Turing killed himself by ingesting cyanide, June 7, 1954, aged 41.

Envoi.

December 24, 2013 Queen Elizabeth II issued a long-overdue pardon to Alan Turing.  By any measure, it was too little, too late… not just for Turing but for all the men  who had been victimized by the virulent prejudices of Henry Labouchere. Each of  these men needs to be pardoned and suitable compensation paid. Britain bumbled  into the sordid business of homosexual victimization… it must do far more to right  this wrong.

As for the music to this article, I have selected “The Lesson” composed by Richard  Robbins for the 1987 film score for E.M. Forster’s 1913 novel “Maurice”. It is beautiful,  lyric, edgy, and moving… perfect for the kind of love Turing craved for life. Find it in any  search engine now, and if there is prejudice in your heart, let this music wash it away  and give you the peace, consolation and solace Alan Turing so wanted and never  had.

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is the author of over a dozen best selling business and marketing books as well as several ebooks and over one thousand articles on a variety of topics.

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This author has published 72 articles so far. More info about the author is coming soon.

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