The mistreatment and horrific chemical castration of Alan Turing is well known, and now official court documents detailing the convictions of the WW2 code breaker have gone on display for the first time.
The documents show that Turing admitted to “acts of gross indecency” during the trial in 1952, which led to his chemical castration. The conviction for homosexuality, for which he was pardoned for posthumously, meant that he lost all his security clearances and was forced to stop work.
This, plus the procedure he was forced to endure, undoubtedly led to his suicide by cyanide poisoning in 1954.
The files documenting the court case against Alan Turing will be displayed at Chester Town Hall, and their display has been welcomed by Cllr. John Leech, the leader of the campaign to get Turing the posthumous pardon.
Leech said: “I really hope this will go some way to highlighting just how absurd the conviction was, and how rightly deserved the pardon is. This is an important public service that I think will help generations to come understand the significance of Turing’s life. It’s a great contribution to LGBTQ+ history. I believe Alan Turing would be so proud to see how far society has moved on and how widely his work is now celebrated.”
Leech, a former Manchester MP, had to work fairly hard to secure the pardon for Turing. He submitted several motions to parliament and campaigned hard to make it happen, which of course was only achieved in 2013. Leech called it “utterly disgusting and ultimately just embarrassing” that the conviction was upheld so long.
The backbone for Leech’s original motion for the pardon was essentially calling for the recognition of the “vital contribution made by Alan Turing to Britain’s war effort” and “regrets that following his years of national service he received a criminal conviction for having a sexual relationship with another man”.
While we can’t know for sure, it has been estimated that Turing’s work saved 14 to 21 million lives by shortening the war by two to four years. Which makes his horrible treatment even more disgusting and abhorrent.
Of course, Leech’s journey hasn’t ended with the posthumous pardon secured, Leech has now turned his attention to securing a pardon for the 75,000 other men criminally convicted of homosexuality.
The government said last week that these pardons would be brought forward “in due course”.
The documents will be on display from October 9, and here’s hoping they serve to remind us of the gross mistreatment of all gay men in that period, as well as helping us remember Turing.