March 2020


Whatchamacallit 7: Alan Turing First Day Cover

Alan Turing First Day Cover

This is a first day cover of a stamp honoring Alan Turing, cancelled at the Bletchley Park Post Office.

This is on my mostly gay wall of art in my bedroom. Strangely, I do not remember exactly how I acquired it, but it was likely shortly after issue in 2012, which was his centenary year.

In my email, I found this description of it:

On 23rd February Bletchley Park Post Office will release a first day cover celebrating Alan Turing’s centenary year. The cover will carry a single 1st class Royal Mail “Turing Bombe” stamp cancelled with a unique postmark for its first day of issue. It has been produced in association with the Alan Turing Year Committee and Bletchley Park Trust. The design by Rebecca Peacock of Firecatcher Design and is her first in this medium. The theme is Turing’s work on the mathematics of patterns in plants. Woven into the design is the Turing Bombe featured on the stamp. The first day of issue postmark is a facsimile of a Bombe rotor. Proceeds will go towards supporting the preservation of Bletchley Park. The intention is to release only 500 as a numbered limited edition at £9.99 plus post and packing of £1.50.

The information on the back of the fame indicates I had it framed in May 2014, two years later: this is entirely plausible since I didn’t really have the money to start framing things willy-nilly until later in life. I also ordered the special Alan Turing Monopoly edition, which sits (unplayed) on a shelf.

So I’ve said all of this without saying who Alan Turing is – and why he is important to me.

Alan Turing was an Englishman who was largely responsible for resolving the German Enigma machine – with his team, of course. Further, he was gay. Lastly, he committed suicide after being found guilty of gross indecency and sentenced to chemical castration.

Thus, after using him for his brilliant mind to help hasten the end of World War II, the British government prosecuted him for liking boys.

I made a point of visiting Bletchley Park, the site of Turing’s World War II work, once while on vacation – I believe in the spring of 2013, but I cannot be certain of this. The site feels like an optimal environment for getting scientists to do the hard core heavy lifting necessary to advance the science of codebreaking, especially in the midst of a World War.

This little envelope reminds me that past injustices can be, to some extent, made right: Queen Elizabeth granted him a posthumous royal pardon in 2014.

Society has come so far since World War II.

During the Covid-19 crisis, I am going to try and make a point of writing a blog post about an object in my home.

We’ll see how long this lasts.

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