War time sexuality.

It is thought that roughly quarter of a million gay and bisexual men alone, served in the British armed forces during World War II. 

The military had a different attitude towards open sexuality just before the war and during.

At the time there was none of the later homophobic uproar about ‘gays’ undermining military discipline and effectiveness. With Britain seriously threatened by the Nazis, the forces weren’t fussy about who they accepted.

One of the more famous gay war time hero’s was Battle of Britain pilot Lieutenant Ian Gleed. In his memoirs published in 1942, still at the height of the war he was forced by his publisher to create a ‘fictional’ girlfriend called Pam. It wasn’t until an interview with Christopher Gotch, his lover that the truth really came out in the 1990’s. Sadly Gleed’s plane was shot down in 1943 and because of the climate at the time Gotch was unable to publically morn for his hero, friend and lover with openness.

Quentin Crisp (Denis Charles Pratt) was born on Christmas day 1908 and spent his early twenties working as a rent boy. He was one of a few rejected by the army on the grounds he was ‘suffering from sexual perversion’. However in his fantastic autobiography he recalls how he ‘enjoyed’ the war years. When the Americans came to Britain he wrote, very comically “Labelled ‘with love from Uncle Sam’ and packaged in uniforms so tight that in them their owners could fight for nothing but their honour, these ‘bundles for Britain’ leaned against the lamp-posts of Shaftesbury Avenue or lolled on the steps of thin-lipped statues of dead English statesmen.” Recalling his experiences with American serviceman  later in his work he went on to say  “Never in the history of sex was so much offered to so many by so few.”
After the war things soon changed, men faced being prosecuted for their sexuality. 

The British public wanted to get back to ‘normal’. It was common for dawn raids on homes of suspected men  during late forties and the fifties.

Some men found themselves subjected to a law that now is considered flawed and would be subject to prison, even if they had helped to win the war. In 1945 the Public Morality Council officer noted: “Police are again conducting a campaign against those engaged in this deplorable offence.”

Dudley Cave a World War II vetren and long time LGBT rights campaigner reflected, just before he died in 1999  “They used us when it suited them, and then victimised us when the country was no longer in danger. I am glad I served but I am angry that military homophobia was allowed to wreck so many lives for over 50 years after we gave our all for a freedom that gay people were denied.”

Peter Wildeblood received an eighteen month sentence in 1954, in Wormwood Scrubs for conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons (Buggery Act 1533.). Peter was also in the airforce during the second world war. He later left UK and moved to Canada.
At the end of 1954 over 1000 men were convicted of ‘gross indecency’, the average age was 37, back in 1938 they would have been 21. The age they were forced to sign up.

In 2014 the House of Lords rejected an amendment to allow all convicted men that were deceased to have a pardon because of the amount of paper work. A man who served in the second world war would be roughly be in their eighties or nineties in 2014, very few would still be alive.

In 2014 Allan Turring who is credited for saving millions of lives received a posthumous pardon, after an Internet campaign. 
Hardly seems fair others have not received the same treatment, considering the sacrifice these men had made in their life times.

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Three gay men.

By @pridematters1

On the success of my article on the events of 1954 (see below for new link) I decided to revisit this time in history where we began to see progression towards decriminalising homosexuality in the UK.

david max
Sir David Maxwell Fyfe

In 1954, The Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe commissioned ‘The Wolfenden Committee’ which was to consider reform in the British law relating to homosexual offences and prostitution. This was in part due to pressure from the media and public scrutiny.

‘The Wolfenden Committee’ was appointed with John Wolfenden as head of the committee.  He is now considered to be an LGBT hero of Equal Rights. However, it is clear through letters his understanding of his owns son’s sexuality paints a more colourful picture.

Before winning his scholarship to Oxford, John Wolfenden’s son Jeremy had told his father he was gay. Wolfenden was horrified, writing to suggest “we stay out of each other’s way for the time being”. Thinking homsexuality was ‘an abomination’, Wolfenden remained ashamed and fearful of his own son’s homosexuality becoming known, even as he made gay history himself.

It was suggested by the Committee that they interview gay men to help them with the enquiry, but naturally it was hard to get homosexuals to come forward. Even though it was suggested to place adverts in local papers  ‘The Committee’ decided to locate  gay men by other means, certainly Wildeblood was known to the committee through the recent scandal of his trial.
The men chosen by the Committee to be credited  for their own part in the change of the eventual law were Carl Winter, Patrick Trevor Roper and Peter Wildeblood.

Carl Winter

Carl Winter was born in Australia, but moved to England in 1928, working as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was married in 1936 but divorced by 1953. He and his wife had two sons and a daughter. After WWII, he and his family moved to Cambridge, working at the Fitzwillaim Museum where he stayed until his death in 1966. Carl Winter died before they decriminalised homosexual acts in England and Wales. It wasn’t until 1980 that it was legalised in his birth state of Victoria, Australia, also a result of the report. He was never able to see the results of his bravery and the others giving evidence, even though he gave evidence anonymously as ‘Mr White’ there was still risk of  stigma back in the late 1950s.


Patrick Trevor-Roper

Like Winter, Patrick Trevor-Roper had an alias, it was ‘The Doctor’ due to his profession as an eye surgeon. He is thought to be one of the first men to “come out” in Britain. Documents suggest that Trevor-Roper told the Committee that the majority of gay men lived normal lives and did not pose a threat to children. The existing laws encouraged blackmailers and due to this, many youths  committed suicide due to isolation and depression caused by society and homophobia. These views would have been seen to be controversial back in the 1950s.

Trevor-Roper was also one of the founders of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK and campaigned to lower the age of consent to sixteen, campaigning all his life for equal rights. Not only was he an equal rights campaigner, he also campaigned for the rights of cheaper ophthalmic medicine both in the United Kingdom and abroad, going against the industries lobby and opticians monopoly in the UK.


Peter Wildeblood

Peter Wildeblood received an eighteen month sentence in Wormwood Scrubs for conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with other male persons (Buggery Act 1533). He wrote a book based on his experiences that highlighted the appalling conditions of the prison. This contributed to prison reforms and progression in equality for LGBT rights. Later, he wrote another book on gay life in London that also received critical acclaim. Wildeblood moved to Canada, becoming a citizen of the country in the 1980s after working for TV stations in both Canada and in the UK. Wildeblood died in 1999, thirteen years before pardons were given out to anyone convicted using the Labouchore Amendment, and as the law stands because he is deceased he will never have his conviction lifted.

On 4 September 1957 the first 5, 000 copies of the 155-page Report on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution was published by the Wolfenden Committee. This was commonly known as The Wolfenden Report, and sold out within hours of publication..

It read an “adult” as being a person over the age of twenty-one, and that homosexual acts should be decriminalised only if they took place “in private” and with consent. The age of heterosexual consent considered an adult at sixteen.

When the new law was brought into power in 1967 the age of consent was raised to twenty-one, and no public display of affection could occur. This was criticised and fought against by early gay activists, including Trevor-Roper.

These men, and others like them, paved the way in order for others to fight for equality, so everyone can have the same rights as each other, something that has been a long battle and is still continuing to be fought.


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