When Turing Buried his Silver to Save his Savings during WWII but couldn’t Break the Code to Retrieve it

When Turing Buried his Silver to Save his Savings during WWII but couldn't Break the Code to Retrieve it
When Turing Buried his Silver to Save his Savings during WWII but couldn't Break the Code to Retrieve it
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In the 1940s, Turing was anxious about losing his savings in the event of a German invasion. In order to protect it, he purchased two silver bars weighing 3,200 oz (90 kg) and worth £250 (in 2022, approx $ 63,000 at spot price) and buried them in a wood near Bletchley Park. 

Upon returning to dig them up, Turing found that he was unable to break his own code describing where exactly he had hidden them. This, along with the fact that the area had been renovated, meant that he never regained the silver.

The buried silver– even though not worth very high — has since then remained a mystery, more so when a mathematician known to break all codes was never able to break his own code to retrieve it.

All that is known is that while serving at Bletchley Park, Turing resided at the Crown Inn, Shenley Brook End, and someplace near there he planted two silver bars, carefully recording the site with respect to local landmarks.

However, when he returned to recover them, the area had been rebuilt.

When Turing converted his wealth into silver bars

During the turbulent days of 1940 in the middle of World War II, a German invasion of Britain was a real possibility.

Turing then used his lateral thinking skills to work out how he might save and grow his modest capital, as related in Andrew Hodges’ biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma”.

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After first rejecting his own idea of converting his savings into a suitcase full of razor blades, presumably on the idea that they would later be hard to get and rise in value, Turing was taken with the thinking of his fellow mathematician David Champernowne, who had observed that silver bullion was one of the few assets to do well during and after the chaos of World War One.

Turing seized on this idea as being correct and joined Champernowne in buying silver, in his case helping conversion for him.

Yet, perhaps fearful of takeover by a successful enemy or a government tax on capital, a plan that was mooted in Britain in 1920, Turing did not, like Champernowne, put his silver in the bank.

Instead, Turing opted to take the somewhat extreme step of burying his ingots separately. Using a baby buggy to transport what I estimate was more than 150 lbs of silver, Turing secreted the ingots in the woods around Bletchley Park, the top-secret code-breaking installation where he was based during the war.

Turing even went so far as to devise a cipher explaining exactly where the ingots were buried, to help find them when the time came.

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Since then, a fiendishly-challenging online brain teaser, featuring cryptic clues, had been launched by mathematicians at The University of Manchester.

For the purposes of the competition, a location has been chosen and three coded clues are there to be deciphered.  

The answers to the clues were then used to find the exact location of the silver. Participants submit their solutions and winners, who were drawn at random from correct solutions, receive film-related merchandise donated by distributors of the film Imitation game based on Turing’s life.

In real life, the silver has never been found, but for the purposes of the competition, a location has been chosen and three coded clues were there to be deciphered.

Turning was a pioneer of computing, artificial intelligence, and mathematical biology and had close associations with the University of Manchester.  He is credited with cracking the German Enigma code.

In 1948 he was appointed Reader in the Mathematics Department and soon afterward he became Deputy Director of the Computing Laboratory at the University, working on software for one of the earliest true computers – the Manchester Ferranti Mark 1.  

He became even more famous when Actor Benedict Cumberbatch played Turing in the film The Imitation Game. He also has ties to the city and The University, where he was a former drama student.

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