Alan Turing: Stolen items to be returned to UK from US after decades
Items belonging to World War Two Bletchley Park code-breaker Alan Turing that were stolen from the UK decades ago are to be returned from the US.
The mathematician’s miniature OBE medal is among 17 items that were taken from Dorset’s Sherborne School by Julia Turing, who is no relation, in 1984.
They were found at her home in Colorado in the US in 2018.
A US civil court case launched against her has been settled out of court and the items are due to be returned.
According to US court papers and Sherborne School, Ms Turing, who legally changed her name from Julie Schwinghamer in 1988, removed the items without permission from archives given to the school in 1965 by the Turing family, in memory of the time he spent there as a pupil.
A letter sent to Turing by King George VI, presenting him with his OBE honour, Turing’s Princeton University PhD certificate, school reports and photographs were among the items that were taken.
Ms Turing attempted to loan them to University of Colorado for display in 2018, claiming to be a relative of the mathematician.
After the alarm was raised, an investigation was carried out by police and the items were found at her home in Conifer.
Sherborne School archivist Rachel Hassall said although the boys’ boarding school had not been party to the settlement agreement with Ms Turing, it had been informed by Homeland Security Investigations that the items would “in due course” be returned to the school.
“We are sorry that by removing the material from the school archives Ms Turing has denied generations of pupils and researchers the opportunity to consult it,” she said.
However, once the material was returned to the school she said it would be available to be viewed in person or via the school archives website.
During a court appearance in Colorado last month, Ms Turing described Turing as “a beautiful man of the finest order”, adding: “He lived brightly in my heart throughout my entire life beginning at the age of between eight and nine years old.”
She continued: “I am giving up my collection to be handed over to England because I do not want to keep anything from England against their will out of selfishness … I wish only the very best for the legacy of Alan Turing, that his belongings, I have had the privilege to be gifted and kept in my presence all these years and deeply cherished throughout my life with the very best of care that I could provide, may now … be handed over to the rest of the world to see and also admire as I did. That is my wish.”
Ms Hassall said: “Alan Turing is one of Sherborne School’s most distinguished alumni and there is no denying that he was a very individual boy, as he proved when, due to no trains running during the General Strike in May 1926, he cycled, aged 13, 65 miles from Southampton to Sherborne for his first day of term.
“In his last year at the school he was made a school prefect and won all the school prizes for science and mathematics.”
Headmaster Dominic Luckett described Turing as one of the school’s “most distinguished alumni”.
“His crucial work as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park and his enormous contribution to the subsequent development of computing have become more widely recognised in recent years and we as a school are keen to do all we can to preserve and promote his legacy,” he said.
Who was Alan Turing?
Born in Maida Vale, London, in 1912, Turing was not well known during his lifetime.
As well as attending Sherborne School, he gained a mathematics degree at King’s College, Cambridge, and PhD at Princeton University in New Jersey.
In 1936 he published a paper that is now recognised as the foundation of computer science.
Three years later he began working at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, where he helped develop the Bombe machine, which was capable of breaking secret German military messages sent using the Enigma machine.
In 1952 he was arrested because he was gay – homosexual acts were illegal in Britain at the time.
Turing died in 1954, aged 41, in Wilmslow, Cheshire, from suicide by cyanide poisoning – though this was disputed by his mother who argued he accidentally ingested cyanide during a chemistry experiment.
He was posthumously pardoned in 2013, and in 2017 the government agreed to officially pardon all men who had criminal records for being homosexual. This pardoning has become known as the Alan Turing law.
Last year, Turing was named the most “iconic” figure of the 20th Century and he became the face of the new design of the Bank of England’s £50 note.
Turing’s nephew Sir Dermot Turing, who also attended Sherborne School, said there was “very, very little physical stuff in existence that has anything to do with Alan Turing”.
“To find out that items that were squirreled away in mysterious circumstances, by someone who had no right to them and kept them out of the public realm, and for them now to be returned is a really positive and good thing,” he said.
“They were donated to the school by my grandmother, it was intended they should form part of the ethos of the place. The return of the items will honour what my grandmother wanted.”
Turing’s research papers and theory work has been held at the National Archives. Apart from Sherborne School, the only other places believed to hold more personal belongings are Cambridge University’s King’s College and Bletchley Park.
Prolific travel writer, journalist, soldier and novelist Jan Morris has died aged 94.
Jan Morris, who has died at the age of 94, was one the finest writers the UK has produced in the post-war era.
Her life story was crammed with romance, discovery and adventure. She was a soldier, an award-winning journalist, a novelist and – as a travel writer – became a poet of time and place.
She was known also a pioneer in her personal life, as one of the first high-profile figures to change gender.
Morris wrote more than 40 books including a notable trilogy about Britain’s empire, Pax Britannica, during the 1960s and 70s.
In 1972, she transitioned from male to female, undergoing gender reassignment surgery and changing her name to Jan.
Obituary: Jan Morris, a poet of time, place and self
Her son Twm announced her death: “This morning (20 November 2020) at 11.40 at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, on the Llyn, the author and traveller Jan Morris began her greatest journey. She leaves behind on the shore her life-long partner, Elizabeth,” he said.
Elizabeth was Morris’s wife before Morris transitioned – they had five children together and stayed together, later entering a civil partnership. One of their children died in infancy.
Morris told Michael Palin in 2016: “I’ve enjoyed my life very much, and I admire it. I think it has been a very good and interesting life and I’ve made a whole of it, quite deliberately.
“I’ve done all of my books to make one big, long autobiography. My life has been one whole self-centred exercise in self-satisfaction!”
She is arguably most famous for her widely admired travel writing, and Palin said: “She’s kind of a non-fiction novelist. She creates an image and a feeling of a place that stays in your mind.”
Author Kate Mosse, whose books include Labyrinth, paid tribute to an “extraordinary woman”. Fellow writer Sathnam Sanghera tweeted: “What a life, and what a writer.”
Journalist Katherine O’Donnell added her “public visibility and account of her transition … let others like me know they were not alone”.
Labour MP for Cardiff North Anna McMorrin added that Morris was “an incredible writer, pioneer and historian”.
Morris’s book Venice, about the Italian city, is considered to be a classic by The Guardian. Palin said it was “one of the most influential books of my life”.
“Her description of the city transcended any conventional travel writing I’ve come across. Morris’s heart and soul was in the book. It was like a love affair,” he said.
“Her book started my own love affair with the city, which has lasted all my life. And as a writer she taught me the importance of curiosity and observation.”
The author also wrote fiction, however, and her book Last Letters from Hav made the Booker Prize shortlist in 1985. It was a novel written in the form of travel literature.
Morris was particularly renowned as a journalist for announcing the ascent of Everest, in an exclusive scoop for The Times in 1953.
‘Powerful and beautifully written’
She accompanied Edmund Hillary as far as the base camp on the mountain, to witness the historic attempt on the summit.
The news was announced on the same day as the Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Later, in 1999, she accepted a CBE from the Queen, but said it was out of politeness.
Morris wrote about her transition in her 1974 book Conundrum, which was hugely successful.
She wrote in the book about having surgery in a clinic in Casablanca. The Guardian described it as a “powerful and beautifully written document”.
The writer told the Financial Times in 2018 she did not think her gender reassignment had changed her writing, saying: “Not in the slightest. It changed me far less than I thought it had.”
She added that she did not think she would have achieved more as a man.
When not abroad, her home was in Gwynedd in Wales, where she held staunchly nationalist views and was honoured by the Eisteddfod for her contribution to Welsh life.