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

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


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.


Sexual Attitude Queer Community London Metropolitan Archive Wolfenden Committee Wellcome Library 
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© Emma Vickers 2009

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