As I continue my blog journey through gay culture in Britain. This blog will look a gay culture around the First World War. Records for experiences around this time are few and far between as homosexuality was illegal during this time. Sexual acts between men were still a corporal punishment offence or two years imprisonment if found guilty.
Background to the war
As well as being illegal there was a big social negative associated with homosexuality this was a particularly strong view held by the more upper-classes. In the lead up to the war German cabinet members were embroiled in the Eulengburg Affair and publicly tried for homosexual conduct, this meant there was a strong connection with Germaneness a stigma that remained strong throughout the war.
In 1918 the then British MP Noel Pemberton published an article in the Vigilante. In it he suggested a German prince had a book containing the names of some 47,000 men and women with allegations about their morals and sexual weaknesses. This would have led them to becoming prime targets for German agents the article proclaimed.
Incestuous bars were established in Portsmouth and Chatham. In these meeting places the stamina of British sailors was undermined. More dangerous still, German agents, under the guise of indecent liaison, could obtain information as to the disposition of the Fleet. Wives of men in supreme position were entangled. In Lesbian ecstasy the most sacred secrets of State were betrayed. The sexual peculiarities of members of the peerage were used as a leverage to open fruitful fields for espionage.
In addition, with British armies suffering large losses of male life on the battlefields by not entering into a heterosexual relationship and aiding to the reproduction of the countrys population it was not only illegal that homosexuality was seen as anti patriotic as a result of only subtle references of homosexual relationships exist during the First World War.
A soldier who recognised that he was gay during the war explained at a later date why he did not act on his feelings:
‘There was no sexual contact with anybody in the services. The simple reason [for me was], I got promoted to sergeant from corporal. As you’re getting promotions, you couldn’t take no chances. I had several chances, mind you, with two or three different private soldiers I knew. You can gauge ‘em, but the point is, when you come to look at it you say to yourself – well, is it mind over matter? You know, you say to yourself, No, I mustn’t. You’re jeopardising your chances, because if something happened you’re going to get court martial.’
LGBT Rights in the army after the First World War.
June to homosexuality being legal it was still prohibited until 1955. In 1967 section offences act decriminalise Homer sexual activity between two males aged 21 or over, this did not cover all aspects of the Armed Forces it was only in the year 2000 when a complete ban was lifted for all military personnel in the British Armed Forces.
This shows the amount of progression is being made over the last hundred years which is light years ahead of where we started at the turn-of-the-century.
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