Alan Turing art 'first' to celebrate codebreaker as gay

Alan Turing Pink Punters said there were tributes to Alan Turing around the world, but theirs would be the "world's first public work to recognise him as a gay man"

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A piece of public art celebrating codebreaker Alan Turing as a gay man has been commissioned by a Buckinghamshire nightclub.

Turing's work at Bletchley Park during World War Two helped accelerate Allied efforts to read German Naval messages enciphered with the Enigma machine.

He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 but pardoned last year.

Pink Punters in Fenny Stratford said the art would be "the world's first public work to recognise Alan as gay".

The owners of the Watling Street lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) venue, near Bletchley Park, said they had spent several thousand pounds on the "street tribute".

The Bombe machine at Bletchley Park

The Bombe machine
  • Enabled cryptographers to decode more than 3,000 German messages in a day
  • Operated by the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS)
  • Originally housed at Bletchley Park, by the end of the war there were about 200 in various locations
  • A replica, which took 10 years and about 60 volunteers to rebuild piece-by-piece, opened as a visitor attraction in 2007

Source: Bletchley Park

Two artists are working on a "form of colourful relief work" to "capture the life and fate of a man persecuted for his homosexuality", a spokesman said.

Details are being kept under wraps until it is unveiled but the BBC has learned it will prominently feature both Turing's face and the gay pride rainbow.

'Deemed suicide'

Workers at at the Government Code and Cypher School in Buckinghamshire used the Bombe machine, which was developed by a team including mathematician Turing, to break codes.

But Turing's conviction, following which he was chemically castrated, meant he lost his security clearance.

Two years later, aged 42, he poisoned himself with cyanide, which a inquest deemed to be suicide.

The Queen granted him a posthumous royal pardon in December following a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling, who said the conviction was "unjust and discriminatory".

'Personal battle'

Club director Frank McMahon said Turing's war work was "instrumental in saving thousands of lives".

Huts 11 and 11A Hut 11 at Bletchley Park housed the Bombe devices, developed by Turing and his team, which decrypted German military messages during World War II

"But as he was doing his best for Britain's war efforts, Alan was fighting his own personal battle with his sexuality," he said.

"We are creating a fitting tribute recognising him for what he was as a mathematical genius, codebreaker and human being - who just so happened to be gay."

The tribute will be unveiled outside the club on 23 June, Turing's birthday.

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