On this day on 22rd June

On this day in 1381 Richard II issued a statement saying that the charters that he had issued in London, granting peasants their freedom, were no longer valid. An army, led by Thomas of Woodstock, John of Gaunt's younger brother, was sent into Essex to crush the rebels. A battle between the peasants and the King's army took place near the village of Billericay on 28th June. The king's army was experienced and well-armed and the peasants were easily defeated. It is believed that over 500 peasants were killed during the battle. The remaining rebels fled to Colchester, where they tried in vain to persuade the towns-people to support them. They then fled to Huntingdon but the towns people there chased them off to Ramsey Abbey where twenty-five were slain.

King Richard with a large army began visiting the villages that had taken part in the rebellion. At each village, the people were told that no harm would come to them if they named the people in the village who had encouraged them to join the rebellion. Those people named as ringleaders were then executed. Apparently the king stated: "Serfs you are and serfs you will remain." A. L. Morton, the author of A People's History of England (1938) has pointed out: "The promises made by the king were repudiated and the common people of England learnt, not for the last time, how unwise it was to trust to the good faith of their rulers."

The king's officials were instructed to look out for John Ball. He was eventually caught in Coventry. He was taken to St Albans to stand trial. "He denied nothing, he freely admitted all the charges without regrets or apologies. He was proud to stand before them and testify to his revolutionary faith." He was sentenced to death, but William Courtenay, the Bishop of London, granted a two-day stay of execution in the hope that he could persuade Ball to repent of his treason and so save his soul. John Ball refused and he was hanged, drawn and quartered on 15th July, 1381. (43)

John Wycliffe

The death of Wat Tyler from Jean Froissart, Chronicles (c. 1470)

On this day in 1836 economist and philosopher James Mill died. James Mill, the son of a shoemaker from Montrose, was born on 6th April 1773. He studied for the ministry at Edinburgh and was ordained in 1798. In 1802 Mill left the Church for journalism and after moving to London he began writing articles for the Edinburgh Review and the St. James Chronicle.

In London James Mill became a friend and disciple of Jeremy Bentham and fully supported his ideas on utilitarianism. Mill became a prominent member of the Philosophical Radicals, a group which included Bentham, David Ricardo, George Grote and John Austin.

In 1817 James Mill finished his major work, the History of British India. This book resulted in him being offered a position with the East India Company. Mill continued to write articles for newspapers and journals and in 1824 he joined Jeremy Bentham to help establish the Westminster Review.Mill's son, John Stuart Mill, also wrote for the Westminster Review and eventually became editor of the journal.

Mill wrote several important books including Elements of Political Economy (1821) and Analysis of the Phenomenon of the Human Mind (1829) where he attempted to provide a psychological basis for utilitarianism.

James Mill
James Mill

On this day in 1849 Sarah Carpenter was interviewed about the food provided for pauper apprentices. "Our common food was oatcake. It was thick and coarse. This oatcake was put into cans. Boiled milk and water was poured into it. This was our breakfast and supper. Our dinner was potato pie with boiled bacon it, a bit here and a bit there, so thick with fat we could scarce eat it, though we were hungry enough to eat anything. Tea we never saw, nor butter. We had cheese and brown bread once a year. We were only allowed three meals a day though we got up at five in the morning and worked till nine at night."

Illustration VI from Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy
Illustration VI from Michael Armstrong: Factory Boy

On this day in 1888 Mabel Capper, the daughter of Elizabeth Crews Capper and William Bentley Capper, was born at Chorlton-on-Medlock, a residential suburb of in Manchester. Her mother had previously been employed as a cashier. Her father was described on census returns as a "Dry Salter" (a dealer in a range of chemical products, including  glue, gums, oils, soap, varnish, paints, dyes and colourings). At the time the family were living at 21 Oxford Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock.

Elizabeth Crews Capper was a member of the Church League for Women's Suffrage. (2). Her father and brother, were both active in the Men's League For Women's Suffrage

Capper joined the Women Social & Political Union as organiser of the Manchester branch. Along with Patricia Woodlock she helped organize a series of public demonstrations at Manchester parks in favour of votes for women. The demonstration held at Heaton Park on 19th July 1908, was attended by an estimated 50,000 people. The Manchester Evening News described the demonstration as "decorous", "informative" and "logical".

Members of the WSPU had given out leaflets promoting the meeting in Manchester city centre the previous day. Speakers included Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst and Adela Pankhurst. Capper and Patricia Woodlock decided to try amking a speech on women's suffrage in the Manchester Royal Exchange. According to Carole O'Reilly: "The Royal Exchange, this bastion of male enterprise was entered by Capper and Woodcock where they attempted to make a speech about women's suffrage but were asked to leave the Exchange or be arrested."

In 1908 Mabel Capper was replaced by Mary Gawthorpe as WSPU organizer in Manchester, when she moved to London where she lived with two of the most important figures in the WSPU, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence. Mabel Capper developed a reputation during this period as "among the most reckless members of the suffragist movement."

On 13th October 1908, Capper took part in a demonstration that involved an attempt to enter the House of Commons by force. They were told "you must find some means of entering a demonstration upon the floor of the House." Twenty-four women and twelve men were arrested including Capper, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Clara Codd, Ada Flatman, Marion Wallace-Dunlop, Grace Roe and Ada Wright.

Capper and Clodd attempted to enter Parliament together. Clodd later recalled: "They gave my arms a peculiar twist which almost forced me to walk on my toes... I was marched to Cannon Street Police Station where I found a number of my compatriots already arrested. They put us all in a billiard room and there we had to stay until the House rose and Mr Pethick-Lawrence came to bail us out. Capper and Clodd were both charged with "wilful obstruction". They refused to pay the fine and spent a month in Holloway Prison.

The Preston Heral reported on Capper making a speech in the town on the subject of women's suffrage in March 1909. "At 7.30 on Tuesday evening, the time advertised indiscriminately in chalk upon the pavement, for a suffragists meeting, attracted only a handful of spectators, in the vicinity of the improvised platform – a lorry – placed on the unlighted space between the Police Station and Sessions House.... At first the audience was sympathetic, but at intervals a number of irresponsible youths gave vent to a variety of the latest pantomime gags and a potato, the one solitary missile fired, struck the lorry and bounded off in splinters. For the most part, however, the crowd was quiet and listened with respect to the eloquent arguments of the ladies… Miss Capper urged the claims of women and spoke strongly against the legislation that had threatened to throw 200,000 barmaids out of employment. If the public houses were too degraded for women, their presence would tend to raise the moral tone."

In July 1909, Capper, together with Mary Leigh, Emily Wilding Davison, Jennie Baines, Alice Paul, and several others were charged with obstructing the police, and Lucy Burns also charged with assaulting Chief Inspector William Fraser, while disrupting a meeting at the Edinburgh Castle, Limehouse, addressed by David Lloyd George. Capper was found guilty and sentenced to 21 days imprisonment. Capper went on hunger strike and was released after six days.

In August 1909 Mabel Capper was in Birmingham Police court with Mary Leigh and others charged with being disorderly, assaulting the police and breaking windows at a meeting addressed by the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. She was remanded in Winson Green Prison.

On 22nd September 1909 Mabel Capper, Mary Leigh, Charlotte Marsh, Laura Ainsworth and Rona Robinson conducted a rooftop protest at Bingley Hall, Birmingham, where Herbert Asquith was addressing a meeting from which all women had been excluded. Using an axe, Leigh removed slates from the roof and threw them at the police below. Sylvia Pankhurst later recalled: "No sooner was this effected, however, than the rattling of missiles was heard on the other side of the hall, and on the roof of the house, thirty feet above the street, lit up by a tall electric standard was seen the little agile figure of Mary Leigh, with a tall fair girl (Charlotte Marsh) beside her. Both of them were tearing up the slates with axes, and flinging them onto the roof of the Bingley Hall and down into the road below-always, however, taking care to hit no one and sounding a warning before throwing. The police cried to them to stop and angry stewards came rushing out of the hall to second this demand, but the women calmly went on with their work."

The Freeman's Journal reported: "Mary Leigh and Mabel Capper have long been among the most reckless members of the suffragist movement. They were two of a large band who visited Birmingham in September, 1909, and were arrested with others on charge arising out of a desperate and well-organised attempt to storm Bingley Hall where Mr Asquith was speaking to an audience of ten thousand. Leigh and another, eluding the vigilance of the police, climbed on to the roof  of an adjoining factory, from which she threw ginger beer bottles, slates, and other missiles on the glass roof of Bingley Hall, and into the street when the Premier was passing in a motor car. While awaiting his appearance the women amused themselves by throwing projectiles at the crowd in the street and the police, several officers being struck. A policeman who climbed on the roof – a hazardous undertaking – found Leigh with her boots off, jumping about like a cat, as he described it, and armed with an axe used for the purpose of ripping slates from the roof: 'Come on up at your peril,' the women shouted to the officers, who were struck several times before effecting an arrest."

The The Daily Telegraph reported: "Laura Ainsworth, who appeared with one eye bandaged and the other discoloured, was charged with throwing a stone and attempting to storm a barrier with an axe. She complained that on Monday night she and other Suffragettes were exposed to the violence of the mob of youths outside Winston Green Gaol, and were refused police protection. Leslie Hall and Mabel Capper were charged with assaulting the police and smashing cell windows. They admitted fighting with the police, but said they were roughly treated."

In court it was claimed by a police constable that Capper and another protester had assaulted him: "P. C. Kings, who had a discoloured eye, said Leslie Hall  struck him on the face and in the chest, while Mabel Capper kicked him several times on the legs. Capper said she was not aware that she had kicked the constable. She was sorry it was him, and she wished it had been Mr Asquith. They were both remanded until Wednesday."

Mabel Capper was found guilty of assault and was sent to prison for one month and went on hunger strike. As soon as she was released she was back demonstrating. In November 1909, along with Laura Ainsworth and others, Capper was charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction at a meeting addressed by Herbert Asquith in Victoria Square, Birmingham. The police asserted that she had mounted a Statue of Queen Victoria and refused to comply with the Deputy Chief Constable's direction to come down.

In February 1910, together with Dora Marsden and Mary Gawthorpe, Capper brought charges of assault against three men. The women alleged that the men; "well dressed hooligan's, had attacked them, broken and thrown away their flag and then lifting Capper "bodily over the head of Miss Gawthorpe and put her back in the car head-first" at a Polling Station in Southport which they were picketing. However the charges were eventually dismissed.

In September 1911, The Common Cause reported that Mabel Capper and her brother, William Bently Capper junior, and the Men's League For Women's Suffrage were involved in a series of public meetings on the Conciliation Bill being debated in the House of Commons. The main target was Sir George Agnew, the Liberal Party MP for Salford West. "The Manchester branch of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage is to conduct a campaign during the next month or so in the Parliamentary division of West Salford. The main object will be to bring the real meaning of the Conciliation Bill home to the constituents of Sir George Agnew, who has the unfortunate distinction of providing that divisions with the only Anti-Suffrage member of Parliament in Manchester and Salford. The opening meeting took place on Thursday, September 14th, at 8 o'clock on the ground near the reservoir in Longworthy Road, Seedly. The speakers were Miss Mabel Clapper (WSPU). And Messers F. Stanton Barnes, George Clany and W. Bently Capper junior (all of the Men's League)."

On 24th November 1911, David Lloyd George travelled to Bath and spoke to 6,000 local Liberals about women's suffrage at the town's skating rink. Despite Lloyd George's recent torpedoing of the Conciliation Bill, "he pleaded with deep earnestness the merits of woman suffrage"; and then "bitterly attacked the militant agitation" which he insisted was "deplored by most woman's suffragists". Mabel Capper was arrested for breaking the post office window. This was the first militant act of the suffragette campaign in the town.

On 16th July, 1912, Jennie Baines and Gladys Evans caught a boat from Holyhead to Dublin and took lodgings in Lower Mount Street. Mabel Capper and Mary Leigh arrived two days later. They were in the city because Herbert Asquith was to give a speech on Home Rule to 4,000 supporters. On the 18th July, Leigh saw Asquith travelling in an open carriage with John Redmond and the Lord Mayor of Dublin. She hurled a hatchet at Asquith, but missed him and hit Redmond on his ear.

According to John O'Brien, the Chief Marshall: "When abreast of Prince's Street he saw an article flung from the opposite side. He ran round by the horses' head and saw the accused (Mary Leigh) holding on to one of the rails of the carriage.  He saw the accused throw the article. He pulled her away from the carriage, when she counteracted him, and started to poke him and tear at him, and struck him a couple of blows in the face."

Leigh was able to escape and that night, along with Gladys Evans attended a production of the Theatre Royal. As the audience was leaving Joseph Keoth noticed a woman (Evans) throwing a burning rag soaked in paraffin into the projection box at the back of the stalls and running away as if she "expected some explosion". Evans then chucked a handbag filled with gunpowder and matches into a box near the stage. Leigh also threw a burning chair into the orchestra pit. "Several small explosions occurred, produced by amateur bombs made of tin canisters, which, with bottles of petrol and benzine, were afterwards found lying about."

Evans was arrested at the scene and Leigh at her lodgings the next morning. Mabel Capper and Jennie Baines were also taken into custody. The four women were charged with having "unlawfully conspired with other persons, known, and unknown, to inflict grievous bodily harm and wilful and malicious damage upon property, and to cause an explosion in the Theatre Royal of a nature likely to endanger life or to cause serious injury to property; and that in pursuance of this object they attempted to set fire to the theatre."

Tim Healy represented Capper, Baines and Evans at their trial. Votes for Women reported: "In his fine and impassioned speech for the defence of Miss Gladys Evans, he (Tim Healey) was rankly contemptuous of the trifling quantity of the damage to a couple of curtains, a carpet, and two chairs, only in comparison with the vaster outrages committed by the forerunners of the present-day electors, but with a greater and still more powerful emphasis, in comparison with the daily and hourly destruction of women's and children's lives in the cities of our civilisation."

Mary Leigh told them that if they sent her to prison she might not survive the sentence. Mary warned that if convicted she would fight: "she would put her back against the wall, and nothing, not even the whole army of the Government and officials, would bring her to submission. The jury returned guilty verdicts on Mary Leigh and Gladys Evans. Both women were sent to prison for five years because "no more terrible catastrophe could occur in a city than a conflagration at a theatre". Jennie Baines was sentenced to seven months with hard labour, and Mabel Capper was acquitted for lack of evidence."

Mabel Capper served six terms of imprisonment between 1908 and 1912, went on hunger-strike and was forced-fed. (29) However, she appears to have reduced her involvement in the WPSU after arriving home from Dublin. Maybe she rejected the organisation's arson campaign. The London Evening Standard reported that Capper had written one-act play, The Betrothal of No. 13, produced at a matinee at the Court Theatre, Sloane Street. Capper described the play "as a tragedy, and deals with working-class life, having for its theme and stigma of imprisonment, through the heroine has been found guilty on a false charge." Votes for Women described it as a "feminist play".

During the First World War she was a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. After the war she was active in the socialist and pacifist movements. From 1919 to 1922 she was on the editorial staff of the Daily Herald. As the Warrington Guardian pointed out: "Mabel Capper has clearly secured a place in the history of the fight for women's suffrage both locally with connections to Manchester and also nationally. Both her political activities and civic roles demonstrate that in many areas it is possible for women to take on the same roles as men. Her strength of character and ultimately willingness to undergo personal distress for the women's suffrage cause is remarkable. Mabel's undying desire to support those who are in need is humbling, whether it is as a VAD nurse or her various escapades to fight for the vote for women."

At the age of thirty-five Mabel Capper married author-publisher, Cecil Chisholm. In 1939 they were living at Hindwood, Farnham, Surrey. On his retirement they moved to Windrush Cottage, Warren Road, Fairlight. He wrote Retire and Enjoy It (1954) that sold 20,000 copies. Cecil Chisholm died on 24th November 1961. He left effects valued at £27,957.

Mabel Capper died at 63 Pevensey Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, on 1st September 1966. Her effects were valued at £7,227.

Mabel Capper delivering petition on Votes for Women (1910)
Mabel Capper and Patricia Woodlock delivering petition on Votes for Women (1910)

On this day in 1888 Annie Besant publishes article that leads to the Bryant & May Strike: "Born in slums, driven to work while still children, undersized because under-fed, oppressed because helpless, flung aside as soon as worked out, who cares if they die or go on to the streets provided only that Bryant & May shareholders get their 23 per cent and Mr. Theodore Bryant can erect statutes and buy parks? Girls are used to carry boxes on their heads until the hair is rubbed off and the young heads are bald at fifteen years of age? Country clergymen with shares in Bryant & May's draw down on your knee your fifteen year old daughter; pass your hand tenderly over the silky clustering curls, rejoice in the dainty beauty of the thick, shiny tresses."

Annie Besant and the Matchgirls Strike Committee
Annie Besant and the Matchgirls Strike Committee

On this day in 1912 Alan Turing, the younger child of Julius Mathison Turing and Ethel Sara Stoney, was born in London on 23rd June, 1912. His father worked for the Indian Civil Service in Madras. For a while Ethel Turing lived in St Leonards-on-Sea with her two sons. His brother, John, had been born in 1908.

Alan's mother claimed that "Alan was interested in figures - not with any mathematical association - before he could read and would study the numbers on lamp posts, etc." However, he seems to have had difficulty with other skills. He later recalled that he had difficulty grasping the principle of the calendar and as a small child he was "quite unable to predict when Christmas would fall. I didn't even realize that it came at regular intervals."

In 1918 Alan went to St Michael's Primary School in Hastings. When he left three years later the headmistress said: "I have had clever boys and hard-working boys, but Alan is a genius." When he was ten years old he was sent to the Hazel Hurst Preparatory School. Over the next four years he developed a passion for mathematics and science. Sara Turing explained that "as a child he always sought to know underlying principles, and apply them... having at school learnt how to find the square root of a given number, he deduced for himself how to find the cube root."

Julius Mathison Turing retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1924. To avoid heavy taxation on his pension he did not return to England and along with his wife settled in France. "By then, though, Alan was used to his parents being some way away. He even took himself to school by taxi, tipping the porter and the driver. His clear aptitude for science and mathematics did not stand him in good stead in a school that specialized in teaching Latin, Greek, literature and the classics in preparation for public school. Turing's spelling and grammar were poor - and remained so throughout his life."

In 1926 Turing became a student at Sherborne School. The start of the first term coincided with the General Strike and as a result the railway system was not working. Turing was so determined to attend the first day that he cycled 100 km unaccompanied from Southampton to Sherborne. "By the end of his first year at the school he had gained a reputation as a shy, awkward boy whose only skills were in the area of science." His housemaster complained that he started the term with a good grasp of mathematics but by the end of the year was not very good: "He spends a great deal of time in investigations in advanced mathematics to the neglect of his elementary work."

John Turing, Alan's brother, later claimed that the family were well aware of his strange behaviour: "My father, on the whole, either ignored my brother’s eccentricities, or viewed them with amused tolerance but there were deep dudgeons when Alan started to accumulate appalling school reports at Sherborne... The only person in the household who was forever exasperated with Alan, constantly nagging him about his dirty habits, his slovenliness, his clothes and his offhand manners (and much else, most of it with good reason) was my mother. If this was due to some early recognition of his genius, she was certainly doing nothing to foster it by trying to press him into a conventional mould. Needless to say, she achieved nothing by it except a dogged determination on Alan’s part to remain as unconventional as possible." Ben Macintyre has argued that Alan Turing was "probably on the Asperger's spectrum."

At Sherborne School, Alan only had two hours a week of science lessons. The headmaster soon reported to his parents: "If he is to be solely a scientific specialist, he is wasting his time at a Public School". According to Nigel Cawthorne, the headmaster told him that: "It is only the shallowest of minds that can suppose... scientific discovery brings us appreciably nearer the solution of the riddles of the universe." He considered Alan "anti-social" and said that he was "the kind of boy who is bound to be a problem in any kind of school".

One of his friends, Victor Beuttell, was the son of the inventor, Alfred Beuttell. On a visit to the Beuttell family home, he began talking to Alfred about his work on his new invention, the K-ray Lighting System. As David Leavitt, the author of The Man Who Knew Too Much (2006), has pointed out: "When he asked Turing to help him fins a formula for determining what should be the proper curvature of the glass used, the boy not only came up with one immediately but pointed out that the thickness of the glass would also affect the illumination - something no one else had noticed. Beuttell gratefully made the necessary changed, and the lighting system was soon put into production."

Turing came into conflict with his English and Latin teacher, A.H. Trelawney Ross who believed that Germany had lost the First World War because it thought "science and materialism were stronger than religious thought and observance." He added that "as democracy advances, manners and morals recede". Ross was furious when he caught Turing doing algebra during a study period set aside for religious instruction. He was so angry he arranged for Turing to fail both subjects.

Alan Turing developed a close relationship with Christopher Morcom, a fellow student at the school. "Together they discussed the latest scientific news and conducted their own experiments. The relationship fired Turing's intellectual curiosity, but more importantly, it also had a profound emotional effect on him." Turing later recalled: "During the term Chris and I began setting one another our pet problems and discussing our pet methods" and confessed that he "worshipped the ground he trod on." When Alan was sixteen, "the maths master told my mother that there was nothing more that he could teach him and he would have to progress from there on his own."

Alan Turing's relationship with Morcom came to an end on 13th February 1930, when his friend died of tuberculosis. Turing wrote to his mother: "I feel that I shall meet Morcom again somewhere and that there will be some work for us to do together as there was for us to do here... It never seems to have occurred to me to make other friends besides Morcom, he made everyone else seem so ordinary."

It has argued that Turing was devastated by the loss of the only person he would ever truly love. "His way of coming to terms with Morcom's death was to focus on his scientific studies in an attempt to fulfill his friend's potential. Morcom, who appeared to be the more gifted of the two boys, had already won a scholarship to Cambridge University. Turing believed it was his duty also to win a place at Cambridge, and then to make the discoveries his friend would otherwise have made."

In 1931 Alan Turing began his studies at King's College. While at Cambridge University he became interested in politics and became a regular reader of the New Statesman. (20) He also became a follower of John Maynard Keynes and became involved in the peace-movement. He joined the Anti-War Council, the purpose of which was to organize chemicals and munitions workers to strike if war was declared.

Turing enjoyed his time at Cambridge and in addition to his academic success "he found himself in a tolerant and supportive environment... homosexuality was largely accepted within the university, which meant that he was free to engage in a series of relationships without having to worry about who might find out, and what others might say." He had brief sexual relationships with several men including James Atkins and Fred Clayton: "It was with Atkins that he had the extended, on-andoff sexual relationship, about which he had ambivalent feelings, because Atkins, in his mind, could not compare with the lost Christopher."

In 1934 Turing attended a lecture given by Max Newman where he explained the work of German mathematician, David Hilbert. As Newman later pointed out: "The Hilbert decision-programme of the 1920's and 30's had for its objective the discovery of a general process, applicable to any mathematical theorem expressed in fully symbolitical form, for deciding the truth or falsehood of the theorem... Many were convinced that no such process was possible, but Turing set out to demonstrate the impossibility rigorously."

Turing published his paper in April 1936. As Nigel Cawthorne pointed out: "What he produced was remarkable... When Newman, in his lecture, described Hilbert's 'definite method' as a 'mechanical process', he started an idea in Turing's head the future repercussions of which would be immense. The word 'mechanical' it its original sense, had referred to manual occupation, to work performed by human beings. By the 1930s, however, mechanical meant gears, rotors, vacuum tubes. It meant a machine. Turing took both definitions to heart."

Alan Hodges has argued that "it is characteristic of Turing that he refreshed Hilbert's question by casting it in terms not of proofs, but of computing numbers. The reformulation staked a clearer claim to have found an idea central to mathematics." To speak of a hypothetical "computing machine" at the time was to break the rules of a fairly rigid orthodoxy. "No such machines existed at the time, only calculating devices too crude to undertake any complex mathematics, and certainly not programmable."

In September 1936 Alan Turing went to study under Alonzo Church at Princeton University. Over the next few months he developed the notion of a "universal computing machine" that could theoretically be programmed to solve any problem capable of solution by a specially designed machine. This concept, now called the Turing Machine, foreshadowed the digital computer. He also studied cryptology and also built three of four stages of an electro-mechanical binary multiplier. Turing studied under Albert Einstein and was offered the post as personal assistant to Professor John von Neumann, the man behind the first American computer. However, after obtaining his PhD in June 1938, he returned to Cambridge University.

In June 1938, Sir Stewart Menzies, the chief of MI6, received a message that the Polish Intelligence Service had encountered a man who had worked as a mathematician and engineer at the factory in Berlin where the Germans were producing the Enigma Machine. The man, Richard Lewinski (not his real name), was a Polish Jew who had been expelled from Nazi Germany because of his religion. He offered to sell his knowledge of the machine in exchange for £10,000, a British passport and a French resident permit. Lewinski claimed that he knew enough about Enigma to build a replica, and to draw diagrams of the heart of the machine - the complicated wiring system in each of its rotors.

Menzies suspected that Lewinski was a German agent who wanted to "lure the small British cryptographic bureau down a blind alley while the Germans conducted their business free from surveillance". Menzies suggested that Alfred Dilwyn Knox, a senior figure at the Government Code and Cypher School, should go to interview Lewinski. He asked Alan Turing to go with him. They were soon convinced that he had a deep knowledge of the machine and he was taken to France to work on producing a model of the machine.

According to Anthony Cave Brown, the author of Bodyguard of Lies (1976): "Lewinski worked in an apartment on the Left Bank, and the machine he created was a joy of imitative engineering. It was about 24 inches square and 18 inches high, and was enclosed in a wooden box. It was connected to two electric typewriters, and to transform a plain-language signal into a cipher text, all the operator had to do was consult the book of keys, select the key for the time of the day, the day of the month, and the month of the quarter, plug in accordingly, and type the signal out on the left-hand typewriter. Electrical impulses entered the complex wiring of each of the rotors of the machine, the message was enciphered and then transmitted to the right-hand typewriter. When the enciphered text reached its destination, an operator set the keys of a similar apparatus according to an advisory contained in the message, typed the enciphered signal out on the left-hand machine, and the right hand machine duly delivered the plain text. Until the arrival of the machine cipher system, enciphering was done slowly and carefully by human hand. Now Enigma, as Knox and Turing discovered, could produce an almost infinite number of different cipher alphabets merely by changing the keying procedure. It was, or so it seemed, the ultimate secret writing machine." Mavis Batey, who worked at the Government Code and Cypher School, pointed out the "Polish replica moved the breaking of Enigma on from a theoretical exercise to a practical one and Knox always gave the Poles credit for the part they played."

On the outbreak of the Second World War the Government Code and Cypher School was established at Bletchley Park. Bletchley was selected simply as being more or less equidistant from Oxford University and Cambridge University since the Foreign Office believed that university staff made the best cryptographers. The house itself was a large Victorian Tudor-Gothic mansion, whose ample grounds sloped down to the railway station. Lodgings had to be found for the cryptographers in the town. Some of the key figures in the organization, including its leader, Alfred Dilwyn Knox, always slept in the office.

Alan Turing considered to be the country's most talented young mathematician, was one of the first people recruited to work at the Government Code and Cypher School in September 1939. A fellow codebreaker, Peter Hilton commented: "Alan Turing was unique. What you realise when you get to know a genius well is that there is all the difference between a very intelligent person and genius. With very intelligent people, you talk to them, they come out with an idea, and you say to yourself, if not to them, I could have had that idea. You never had that feeling with Turing at all. He constantly surprised you with the originality of his thinking. It was marvellous."

By 1939 radio communication was a vital aspect of modern warfare. Radio was used for aerial, naval and mobile land warfare. However, it was very important that the enemy was not aware of these messages. Therefore all radio communications had to be disguised. The main task of the codebreakers was to read messages being sent by the German Enigma Machine. The situation was explained by Francis Harry Hinsley: "By 1937 it was established that... the German Army, the German Navy and probably the Air Force, together with other state organisations like the railways and the SS used, for all except their tactical communications, different versions of the same cypher system - the Enigma machine which had been put on the market in the 1920s but which the Germans had rendered more secure by progressive modifications."

By studying old decrypted messages, Turing discovered that many of them conformed to a rigid structure. He found that he could sometimes predict part of the contents of an undecyphered message, based on when it was sent and its source. As Simon Singh has explained: "For example, experience showed that the Germans sent a regular enciphered weather report shortly after 6 a.m. each day. So, an encrypted message intercepted at 6.05 a.m. would be almost certain to contain wetter, the German word for 'weather'. The rigorous protocol used by any military organization meant that such messages were highly regimented in style, so Turing could even be confident about the location of wetter within the encrypted message. For example, experience might tell him that the first six letters of a particular cypher text corresponded to the plaintext letters wetter. When a piece of plaintext can be associated with a piece of cypher text, this combination is known as a crib. Turing was sure that he could exploit the cribs to crack Enigma."

The problem for Turing and the rest of the team was that at the time they had to use a "trial and error" approach. This was a very difficult task as there were 159,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible settings to check. R. V. Jones was one of those who worked with Alan Turing on this project: "Together we worked out ways in which the process might be done mechanically, with a machine that would recognize when genuine German was coming out by the frequencies with which various letters and diphthongs appeared."

Another member of the team at Bletchley Park, Peter Calvocoressi, explained the task that faced the codebreakers. "Although its keyboard was simpler than a typewriter's, the Enigma machine was in all other respects much more complicated. Behind the keyboard the alphabet was repeated in another three rows and in the same order, but this time the letters were not on keys but in small round glass discs which were set in a flat rectangular plate and could light up one at a time. When the operator struck a key one of these letters lit up. But it was never the same letter. By striking P the operator might, for example, cause L to appear; and next time he struck P he would get neither P nor L but something entirely different. This operator called out the letters as they appeared in lights and a second operator sitting alongside him noted them down. This sequence was then transmitted by wireless in the usual Morse code and was picked up by whoever was supposed to be listening for it."

Both the person sending and receiving the message had a handbook that told him what he had to do each day. This included the settings of the machine. As Calvocoressi pointed out: "These parts or gadgets consisted of a set of wheels rotors and a set of plugs. Their purpose was not simply to turn P into L but to do so in so complex a manner that it was virtually impossible for an eavesdropper to find out what had gone on inside the machine in each case. It is quite easy to construct a machine that will always turn P into L, but it is then comparatively easy to find out that L always means P; a simple substitution of this kind is inadequate for specially secret traffic. The eavesdropper's basic task was to set his machine in exactly the same way as the legitimate recipient of the message had set his, since the eavesdropper would then be able to read the message with no more difficulty than the legitimate recipient. The more complex the machine and its internal workings, the more difficult and more time-consuming was it for the eavesdropper to solve this problem.... Although only three wheels could be inserted into the machine at any one time, there were by 1939 five wheels issued with each machine. The operator had to use three of this set of five. He had to select the correct three and then place them in a prescribed order. This was crucial because the wheels, although outwardly identical, were differently wired inside."

In 1939 Alan Turing had a meeting with Marian Rejewski, a mathematician who had been working for the Polish Cypher Bureau. He had been trying for seven years to understand the workings of the Enigma machine. When the country was invaded by the German Army, Rejewski managed to escape to France. He told Turing that he had come to the conclusion that as the code had been generated by a machine it could be broken by a machine. In Poland he had built a machine that he named "bomba kryptologiczna" or "cryptological bomb". This machine took over 24 hours to translate a German message on an Enigma machine. Turing was impressed by what Rejewski had achieved but realised that they must find a way of achieving this in a shorter time period if this breakthrough was to be effective.

Alan Turing set about developing an engine that would increase the speed of the checking process. Turing finalized the design at the beginning of 1940, and the job of construction was given to the British Tabulating Machinery factory at Letchworth. The engine (called the "Bombe") was in a copper-coloured cabinet. "The result was a huge machine six-and-a-half feet tall, seven feet long and two feet wide. It weighed over a ton, with thirty-six 'scramblers' each emulating an Enigma machine and 108 drums selecting the possible key settings." Its chief engineer, Harold Keen, and a team of twelve men, built it in complete secrecy. Keen later recalled: "There was no other machine like it. It was unique, built especially for this purpose. Neither was it a complex tabulating machine, which was sometimes used in crypt-analysis. What it did was to match the electrical circuits of Enigma. Its secret was in the internal wiring of (Enigma's) rotors, which 'The Bomb' sought to imitate."

To be of practical use, the machine would have to work through an average of half a million rotor positions in hours rather than days, which meant that the logical process would have to be applied to at least twenty positions every second. The first machine, named Victory, was installed at Bletchley Park on 18th March 1940. It was some 300,000 times faster than Rejewski's machine. "Its initial performance was uncertain, and its sound was strange; it made a noise like a battery of knitting needles as it worked to produce the German keys." They were described by operators as being "like great big metal bookcases".

Frederick Winterbotham was the chief of Air Intelligence at MI6. He later described the moment when Major General Sir Stewart Menzies, the chief of MI6, first gave him copies of German secret messages: "It was just as the bitter cold days of that frozen winter were giving way to the first days of April sunshine that the oracle of Bletchley spoke and Menzies handled me four little slips of paper, each with a short Luftwaffe message on them... From the Intelligence point of view they were of little value, except as a small bit of administrative inventory, but to the back-room boys at Bletchley Park and to Menzies... they were like the magic in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The miracle had arrived."

A more improved version, called Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), was delivered on 8th August. From this point onwards, Bletchley Park was able to read, on a daily basis, every single Luftwaffe message - something in the region of one thousand a day. At the time, the Battle of Britain was raging and the German codes were being broken at Bletchley Park, allowing the British to direct their fighters against incoming German bombers. When the battle was won the codebreakers intercepted messages cancelling the planned invasion of Britain - Operation Sea Lion.

By 22nd May, 1940, British Military Intelligence was able, as a result of the efforts of hundreds of codebreakers decrypting the German Air Force Enigma at Bletchley, to read the most secret German Air Force commanders in France. This made it clear that the German priority was the defeat of France. Not a single Enigma message referred to any move of aircraft needed for Adolf Hitler to follow up the Dunkirk success by an assault across the Channel - Operation Sea Lion.

One of the first important messages concerned the Knickebein Radio System being used by German bombers. R. V. Jones analysed this message and came to the conclusion that "it looked to me as though Knickebein might be some kind of beamed beacon which that day had been set to transmit in a north-westerly direction." Jones told Frederick Lindemann, the government's chief scientific, that he was convinced that the Germans had a radio beam transmitter called Knickebein set up at Cleves, on the nearest German soil to England and that it was part of an intersecting beam system for bombing England.

Lindemann told Winston Churchill that "there seems some reason to suppose that the Germans have some type of radio device with which they hope to find their targets". Orders were given to interrogate prisoners from the German bombers that had recently been shot down. Most refused to talk but one prisoner who professed to be anti-war admitted that the new bomb-dropping device involved two intersecting radio beams and it had been developed at Rechlin. The prisoner drew a sketch of what he thought was one of the transmitting towers which he had seen. The RAF had been collecting information about any unusual towers that had been seen in Germany. The drawing provided by the prisoner agreed exactly with a tower that had been photographed near an airfield at Hörnum.

Jones was called to a meeting of the War Cabinet: "Churchill asked me what we could do. I told him that the first thing was to confirm their existence by discovering and flying along the beams for ourselves, and that we could develop a variety of counter-measures ranging from putting in a false cross-beam to making the Germans drop their bombs early, or using forms of jamming ranging from crude to subtle... And then the meeting ended. There were no minutes, because the matter seems to have been deemed so secret that no secretaries were present, and the only record was the one that I made for my report written during the following week."

Following further investigations it was discovered that Jones's predictions had been correct: "Our conclusions had been confirmed: there were indeed two beams, whose bearings were consistent with transmitters at Cleves and Bredstedt.... All doubts were now removed, and plans for counter-measures could go urgently ahead." In his final report to Churchill, R. V. Jones argued: "There are many lessons in this story, most of which are too obvious to point out. It shows the German technique is well-developed - almost beyond what we thought possible."

Greg Goebel, the author of The Battle of the Beams (2013) has pointed out that by September, 1940, the British had found a way of dealing with Knickebein: "The British were operating more powerful anti-Knickebein transmitters that degraded Knickebein signals by injecting them with Morse code patterns. Since the beams were codenamed 'Headaches', the transmitters were named 'Aspirins'. Knickebein had been neutralized. Without direction, German bombers sometimes got lost in the dark, and at least one crashed because the pilot became completely disoriented, losing control of his aircraft and causing his crew to bail out before the bomber slammed into the ground."

In June 1940 Joan Clarke went to work for Alan Turing in Hut 8. Joan later recalled: "I can remember Alan Turing coming in as usual for a day's leave, doing his own mathematical research at night, in the warmth and light of the office, without interrupting the routine of daytime sleep." The two quickly developed a close relationship. He found her intellectually satisfying as she was able to discuss papers he had written. They were also both keen on chess and although Joan had only recently learnt to play, they were quite well matched. "As they only had a cardboard pocket set, and proper pieces were unobtainable in wartime conditions, so they improvised their own solution. Alan got some clay from one of the local pits, and they modelled the figures together. Alan then fired them on the hob of the coal fire in his room at the Crown Inn. The resulting set was quite usuable, if somewhat liable to breaking. He also tried to make a one-valve wireless set, telling her about the one he had made at school, but this was not such a success."

Alan Turing eventually proposed marriage and Joan Clarke gladly accepted. Nigel Cawthorne, the author of The Enigma Man (2014) suggests that "Turing was not much of a catch... Sometimes he appeared in the office in his pyjamas, or wore trousers held up by a striped necktie instead of a belt. His hair was unkempt and he had a permanent five o'clock shadow, refusing to shave with anything but an ancient electric razor. Though he did not smoke, his teeth were yellow and he bit his fingernails. He was also a workaholic."

A few days later he told her that the marriage might have problems as he had "homosexual tendencies." Clarke's biographer, Lynsey Ann Lord, has argued: "To understand her decision to continue with the engagement following his disclosure, it has to be made clear that during this period in history, marriage for many women, was considered a social duty and it was not necessary that marriage should correspond with sexual desires." Alan Hodges agrees and claims that "many people, in 1941, would not have thought it important that marriage did not correspond with his sexual desires; the idea that marriage should include a mutual sexual satisfaction was still a modern one, which had not yet replaced the older idea of marriage as a social duty. One thing that Alan never questioned was the form of the marriage relationship, with the wife as housekeeper."

The engagement was continued and he gave her a ring. Alan also took Joan to Guildford to meet his mother. They also had lunch with her parents, William and Dorothy Clarke. Alan told Joan about some of his homosexual relationships but claimed that this kind of behaviour was over. He even said that he would like them to have children. However, he eventually decided that he could not go through with the marriage and broke the relationship off.

On 6th September, 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Sir Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, visited Bletchley Park. Churchill was shocked by the wide variety of backgrounds of the codebreakers: "In addition to the mathematicians and linguists, there was an authority on porcelain, a curator from the Prague Museum, the British chess champion and numerous bridge experts." Churchill told Menzies: "I told you to leave no stone unturned, but I didn't expect you to take me so literally."

Turing believed that Bletchley Park needed more staff to carry out the task of dealing with so many secret German messages. On 21st October 1941, Turing wrote to Churchill: "Some weeks ago you paid us the honour of a visit, and we believe that you regard our work as important. You will have seen that, thanks largely to the energy and foresight of Commander Travis, we have been well supplied with the 'bombes' for the breaking of the German Enigma codes. We think, however, that you ought to know that this work is being held up, and in some cases is not being done at all, principally because we cannot get sufficient staff to deal with it. Our reason for writing to you direct is that for months we have done everything that we possibly can through the normal channels, and that we despair of any early improvement without your intervention."

Churchill told his principal staff officer: "Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this has been done." By the end of 1942 there were 49 Turing machines. As part of the recruitment drive, the Government Code and Cypher School placed a letter in the Daily Telegraph. They issued an anonymous challenge to its readers, asking if anybody could solve the newspaper's crossword in under 12 minutes. It was felt that crossword experts might also be good codebreakers. The 25 readers who replied were invited to the newspaper office to sit a crossword test. The six people who finished the crossword first were interviewed by military intelligence and recruited as codebreakers at Bletchley Park.

After the death of his boss, Alfred Dilwyn Knox, in February, 1943, Turing became the chief consultant to the vast cryptanalytic operation. By this time Ultra had become a major industry and employed some 6,000 people to translate over 2,000 messages a day. However, Turing was suffering from stress: "Turing was a man of enormous intellect but, by then, few reserves of nervous energy. He was nearing the end of his tether as he coaxed his battery of engines at Bletchley to penetrate Enigma-enciphered U-boat communications and pinpoint the movements of his fearful enemy."

Alan Turing behaviour became more eccentric. "He would convert the family money into silver ingots at the outbreak of war, bury them, and then forget where they were. He corresponded with friends in a cipher punched onto a tape which no one could read. He was a talented long-distance runner and would on occasion arrive at conferences at the Foreign Office in London having run the 40 miles from Bletchley in old flannels and a vest with an alarm clock tied with binder twine around his waist." His friend, Geoffrey Jefferson, described his "long, disturbing silences punctuated by a cackle" that "wracked the nerves of his closest friends." He added that he was "so unversed in worldly ways, so child-like, so non-conformist, so very absent-minded... a sort of scientific Shelley."

However, his brother, John Turing, believes some of these stories were exaggerated. He was especially critical of Ronald Lewin, the author of Ultra Goes To War (1978) who said that "in some fit of despondency Alan converted all his money into cash and buried it in the Bletchley woods as a reserve against disaster." John Turing claims that: "In fact, he did nothing of the kind. He had decided that if there were a German invasion, banking accounts would be useless, so he bought some silver ingots for use on the black market. These he trundled in an ancient perambulator and buried in a field (not at Bletchley), where he made a sketch map of their position so he could find them after the war. After the war, he enlisted the help of his friend, Donald Michie (now Professor Michie of Edinburgh University), to dig up these ingots - using, typically, a homemade metal detector - but the heavy ingots were by now well on their way to Australia and were never seen again."

According to his biographer, Alan Hodges, Turing became very interested in electronics during the later stages of the war: "Electronics... made its first appearance at Bletchley as telephone engineers were pressed into an effort to enable the machines to work at ever higher speeds, and thus Turing was introduced to the potential of this new and untried technology. He himself devoted much time to learning electronics, ostensibly for his own, elegant, speech secrecy system, effected with one assistant, Donald Bayley, at nearby Hanslope Park. However, he had a more ambitious end in view: in the last stage of the war (for his part in which he was appointed OBE), he planned the embodiment of the universal Turing machine in electronic form, or, in effect, invented the digital computer.... In 1944 Turing knew his own concept of the universal machine; the speed and reliability of electronics; and the inefficiency of building new machines for new logical processes. These provided the principle, the means, and the motivation for the modern computer, a single machine capable of any programmed task. He was spurred by a fourth idea that the universal machine should be able to acquire the faculties of the brain."

It has been claimed that Turing's work enabled much of modern technology to take place: "Turing was captivated by the potential of the computer he had conceived. His earlier work had shown the absolute limitations on what any Turing machine could do, but his fascination now lay in seeing how much such machines could do, rather than in what they could not, and in the power of the concept of the universal machine. Indeed from now on he argued that uncomputable functions were irrelevant to the problem of understanding the action of the mind. His thought became strongly determinist and atheistic in character, holding that the computer would offer unlimited scope for practical progress towards embodying intelligence in an artificial form."

After the war Alan Turing lived in Richmond while he worked on the design of the ACE (Automatic Computing Engine) at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). In 1947 he returned to Cambridge University and produced an unpublished paper on Intelligent Machinery. In 1948, he was appointed Reader in the Mathematics Department at the University of Manchester. The following year he became Deputy Director of the university's Computing Laboratory and produced software for one of the earliest stored-program computers.

In 1950 he addressed the problem of artificial intelligence. He developed what became known as the Turing Test. He stated that with a person in one room and the machine in another, an interrogator in a third room asks questions of both to try to identify them. When the interrogator cannot distinguish between them by questioning, the machine will have reached a state of human-like intelligence.

In December 1951 Alan Turing met Arnold Murray, a 19-year-old unemployed man while walking the streets of Manchester. "Alan invited him to lunch in the restaurant across the road. Fair and with blue eyes, undernourished and with his thin hair already receding, desperate for better things and more receptive than so many educated people, Arnold touched Alan's soft spot for lost lambs, as well as other cords." Turing told him about his work and Arnold pleased him by asking sensible questions about his research.

They agreed to meet again and on 12th January 1952, Arnold visited Alan's home in Wilmslow. Two days later he spent the night with Alan. Not wanting to be treated as a prostitute, "Arnold rebuffed Turing's efforts to give him cash." The following day he noticed that £10 was missing from his wallet. When he saw him later that week he accused Arnold of stealing his money. He denied it but admitted he was in debt and asked for a loan of £3. On 18th January Arnold asked him for another £7.

On 23rd January he arrived home to find his house burgled. He wrote to his friend, Fred Clayton: "I have just had my house broken into, and am still every few hours finding some fresh thing missing. Fortunately I am insured, and little has gone that is really irreplaceable. But the whole thing has had a very disturbing effect, especially as it followed shortly on a theft from me at the University."

Alan Turing reported the burglary to the police and two CID officers came to take fingerprints in the house. On 2nd February, Arnold returned to Alan's house. After having a few drinks together Arnold admitted that a friend of his, Harry, a twenty-year old unemployed man, was responsible for the burglary. The following morning Alan reported this information to the police. Harry was in custody on another charge and they had already matched his fingerprints with those found in Alan's house. The CID officers began to ask him about his relationship with Arnold. He confessed to having a homosexual relationship with Arnold and then wrote a five page statement giving full details of what had taken place between the two men. Alan added that he was convinced that Parliament was just about "to legalize it". Arnold was now arrested and both men were charged with gross indecency under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.

Turing wrote to Joan Clarke, who was now engaged to be married to Lieutenant-Colonel J. K R Murray. He admitted that he had been having sex with other men and that "he had been found out". He tried to assure her that he would not be sent to prison and claimed that "they're not as savage as they used to be". He had been told that only 174 of the 746 men prosecuted for gross indecency had been imprisoned, and then mostly for less than six months. He was also a "first offender" which diminished the chances of imprisonment.

Turing and Murray went on trial on 31st March 1952. Max Newman and Hugh Alexander both appeared as character witnesses. Turing and Murray were found guilty. Murray was given a conditional discharge. Turing was placed on probation, which would be conditional on his agreement to undergo hormonal treatment designed to reduce his sex drive. He accepted the option of treatment via injections of stilboestrol, a synthetic oestrogen; this treatment was continued for the course of one year. Turing wrote to his friend, Philip Hall: "I am both bound over for a year and obliged to take this organo-therapy for the same period. It is supposed to reduce sexual urge whilst it goes on... The psychiatrists seemed to think it useless to try and do any psychotherapy." The treatment rendered Turing impotent.

Turing's conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing with his cryptographic consultancy for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The case of the two Soviet spies, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who were both homosexuals, convinced the authorities that Turing was a security risk and was forbidden to work on research projects relating to the development of the computer. (74) He was also denied entry into the United States.

At his home in Wilmslow he began making certain chemicals, among them potassium cyanide. On 7th June, 1954, he coated an apple with some of the cyanide, went to bed and bit the apple and died. The coroner pronounced at the inquest: "I am forced to the conclusion that this was a deliberate action, for with a man of this type one can never be sure what his mental processes are going to do next. Here was a brilliant mathematician with unusual mental achievements. he might easily become unbalanced and unstable."

Alan Turing
Alan Turing

On this day in 1913 Ambrose Bierce goes missing in Mexico. It is not known exactly when or how he died but it has been suggested he was killed during the siege of Ojinaga in January, 1914.

Ambrose Bierce was born in Meigs County, Ohio, on 24th June, 1842. He was a printer's apprentice but influenced by his uncle, Lucius Bierce, became a strong opponent of slavery.

On the outbreak of the Civil War Lucius Bierce organized and equipped two companies of marines. Bierce joined one of these on 19th April, 1861, and two months later became part of the invasion force led by George McClellan in West Virginia.

On 6th April, 1862, Albert S. Johnson and Pierre T. Beauregard and 55,000 members of the Confederate Army attacked Grant's army near Shiloh Church, in Hardin, Tennessee. Taken by surprise, Grant's army suffered heavy losses. Bierce was a member of the force led by General Don Carlos Buell that forced the Confederate to retreat. Bierce was deeply shocked by what he saw at Shiloh and after the war wrote several short stories based on this experience.

Bierce was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant in November, 1862. Two months later he fought at Murfreesboro where he saved the life of his commanding officer, Major Braden, by carrying his to safety and he had been seriously wounded in the fighting.

In February, 1862 Bierce was commissioned first lieutenant of Company C of the Ninth Indiana. He fought at Chickamuga (September, 1863) under General William Hazen. The sight of so many senior officers, including William Rosecrans, fleeing from the battlefield, deeply shocked Bierce. It is said that Bierce's idealism died that day and was replaced by cynicism. He later wrote that during the war he entered "a world of fools and rogues, blind with superstition, tormented with envy, consumed with vanity, selfish, false, cruel, cursed with illusions - frothing mad!"

Bierce served under General William Sherman during his Atlanta Campaign. At Resaca on 14th May, 1864, Bierce's close friend, Lieutenant Brayle was killed. Two weeks later his regiment suffered heavy losses when attacked by General Joseph Johnson at Pickett's Mill. Bierce was badly wounded at Kennesaw Mountain when he was shot in the head by a musket ball on 23rd June. While engaged in this duty, Lieutenant Bierce was shot in the head by a musket ball which caused a very dangerous and complicated wound, the ball remained within the head from which it was removed sometime afterwards.

General William Hazen reported: "After being treated in hospital he returned to the front-line on 30th September, 1864. The injury caused him long-term problems for the rest of his life. He later wrote: "for many years afterward, subject to fits of fainting, sometimes without assignable immediate cause, but mostly when suffering from exposure, excitement or excessive fatigue."

After the war Ambrose Bierce went to California where he became a journalist working for the Overland Monthly. He travelled to England in 1872 and worked for humorous magazines in London such as Figaro and Fun. Bierce returned to the United States in 1875 and over the next twelve years he contributed to a wide variety of different journals.

In March, 1887, William Randolph Hearst, recruited Bierce to write a regular humorous article for his San Francisco Examiner. The articles were a great success and Hearst was soon paying Bierce $100 a week to retain his services.

Bierce held strong opinions and was especially critical of social reformers and liberal politicians. He advocated "a vigilant censorship of the press, a firm hand upon the church, keen supervision of public meetings and public amusements, command of the railroads, telegraph and all means of communications" in order to stop the growth of socialism.

In 1891 he published a book of short-stories, Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (later revised and republished as In the Midst of Life), about the American Civil War. Bierce followed this with Can Such Things Be? (1893), Fantastic Fables (1899) and Shapes of Clay (1903). In 1906 Bierce published The Cynic's Word Book (reissued in 1911 as The Devil's Dictionary).

As well as working for the San Francisco Examiner, Bierce contributed to journals such as Cosmopolitan, Everybody's, Hampton's Magazine and Pearson's. In 1895 he helped William Randolph Hearst with his campaign against the the railway magnate, Collis Huntington. It is argued that Bierce's articles helped to prevent the growth of Huntington's company, Southern Pacific.

In 1906 Ambrose Bierce argued: "Nothing touches me more than poverty. I have been poor myself. I was one of those poor devils born to work as a peasant in the fields, but I found no difficulty getting out of it. I don't see that there is any remedy for the condition which consists in the rich being on top. They always will be. The reason that rich men are poor - this is not a rule without an exception - is that they are incapable. The rich become rich because they have brains." Bierce spent spent from 1909 to 1912 editing his 12 volume Collected Works.

Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce

On this day in 1963 Dorothy Kilgallen publishes an article in New York Journal-American suggesting John F. Kennedy involved in the John Profumo scandal."One of the biggest names in American politics - a man who holds a very high elective office - has been injected into Britain's vice-security scandal." Kilgallen went on to describe one of the girls as "a beautiful Chinese-American girl now in London." She added that the "highest authorities" had "identified her as Suzy Chang."

Dorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy Kilgallen