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‘The Good Fellow’: Negotiation, Remembrance, and Recollection — Homosexuality in the British Armed Forces, 1939–1945

Chapter
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)

Abstract

The year 1967 marked a watershed in English law. Twenty-two years after the end of the Second World War, homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales by the Sexual Offences Act.1 Prior to the introduction of the new legislation, the hero of Alamein, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, urged the House of Lords not to sanction the legislation.

Our task is to build a bulwark which will defy the evil influences seeking to undermine the very foundations of our national character. I know it is said this is allowed in France and some other countries. We are not French, we are not from other nations, we are British – thank God.2

While Montgomery could not slow the momentum of the civil law nor the rumours that he himself was a homosexual, his concerns were shared by policy-makers within the Armed Forces. Indeed military chiefs and the Wolfenden committee agreed that decriminalising homosexual acts in the forces would affect discipline and threaten the safety of lowranking servicemen.3 As a result, homosexual acts remained punishable by military law even though they were made legal for civilian men over the age of 21.

Keywords

Sexual Attitude Queer Community London Metropolitan Archive Wolfenden Committee Wellcome Library 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    ‘94–49 vote for change in homosexual law’, The Times, 25 May 1965. See also S. Hall, ‘Letters show Monty as “repressed gay”’, The Guardian Online, 26 February 2001, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4142165,00.html, accessed 2 January 2007 and N. Hamilton, The Full Monty: Montgomery of Alamein, 1887–1942 [vol. 1] (London, 2002).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
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    Traditionally, the queer community has always favoured the anonymity and sexual choice of the city. Matt Houlbrook has demonstrated that London drew thousands of migratory gay men onto its streets precisely because of its reputation as a sexual metropolis. New York was also a haven for gays and lesbians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. See G. Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940 (New York, 1994);Google Scholar
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© Emma Vickers 2009

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