Winston Churchill said there was only one battle that really scared him in the Second World War.
Only one battle that, if we lost it, we’d lose the war.
The Battle of the Atlantic.
As an island, we can’t grow enough food to feed 50 million people.
97% of our imports come by ship.
If the Atlantic convoys stopped, we would start to starve after three weeks.
If the U boats could sink enough ships, we’d have to surrender.
That battle lasted six years.
During the course of it, they sank 3,500 merchant ships.
(To give you an idea of scale, today the Royal Navy has 88 ships.)
The main reason it was eventually won was cracking the Enigma code.
The code that was supposedly unbreakable.
By breaking it, the British were able to reroute their slow-moving convoys around the ‘wolf packs’ of up to thirty waiting U Boats.
The Enigma code was changed every day.
So it had to be broken on a daily basis.
And there were up to 150 trillion possible combinations.
Cracking the code was only made possible by the world’s first programmable computer.
The person most responsible for this was Alan Turing.
He was a young mathematical genius and, like many geniuses, lived in a world of his own.
The work was done at Bletchley Park, staffed mainly by members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (Wrens).
One young Wren described bringing Turing a cup of tea as he stood by the lake, deep in thought.
She said, “We were in awe of him, so we secretly watched as he absent-mindedly drank the tea.
Eventually he realised he was holding an empty cup and saucer.
He looked at it for a few seconds then, unable to work out what to do with it, threw it in the lake.”
Turing was, more than any other single person, the genius responsible for the computer that cracked the code on a daily basis.
But, after the war, there were two problems.
Everything he’d done was labelled top secret, so he could never talk about it.
And he was a homosexual.
Which, in those days, was illegal.
Turing was arrested for practicing homosexuality.
Because no one knew who he was, or what he’d done, he was given a choice.
Prison, or chemical castration.
He chose the chemicals.
This made him grow breasts and caused terrible depression.
Eventually he committed suicide.
On his own, in his small bed sitting room.
He injected an apple with cyanide, and ate it.
Apparently this inspired the logo for Apple computers.
The argument is as follows.
Turing was the father of the programmable computer.
The apple has a bite taken out of it.
The apple’s multi-colours are the same as the ‘gay rainbow’ flag.
Like much of Turing’s life, we’ll probably never know if it’s true.
Turing’s work was so secret, so vital, Churchill was terrified the Russians would find out about it.
So, immediately after the war all evidence of it was destroyed.
Turing was never allowed to talk about it.
The world is celebrating victory with the biggest party ever.
Everyone is getting awarded medals, knighthoods, peerages.
Heroes are having parades and parties.
They’re having biographies written, and films made about them.
And you were one of the most important people in the whole victory.
And you get no recognition.
And you have to sit in your bedsit and watch everyone else celebrating.
The country owes you a massive debt of gratitude.
But at best they ignore you and at worst they revile you.
While you have to watch everyone else pat each other on the back.
Kind of puts it in perspective when we moan about not getting credit for an ad we wrote, doesn’t it?