I commented earlier this week on the story in The Guardian about the witch hunts for gays and lesbians in the British Armed Forces. I see that my friend Ed has got a letter about it in The Guardian today. Since his letter was edited for inclusion, I’m pleased to be able to present the original as a blog exclusive:
Lest younger readers of your paper should think that all was doom and gloom in the RAF camps of the mid-l950’s (Your article ‘How the air force kept secret watch to track down lesbians’, 22nd August), I can tell them that this was not so for at least one camp which I experienced as an adolescent airman – namely, RAF Ruislip on the outskirts of London. To say that it was the prototype set for a film yet to be made "Carry on Camping II" would do it less than justice since, as part of the policy adopted by the higher authorities in the RAF to ‘clear out the homosexuals’ many of this robust community were stationed there. It was argued, I believe, that rather than allowing youths suspected of being homosexual from their behaviour (i.e. being ‘camp’ for men and ‘butch’ for women) to corrupt other airmen/airwomen (there was no need), it would be wiser to have them all together where they could conduct themselves as outrageously as they pleased and with the added bonuses of being both near to central London and adjacent to an American air base.As now a 70-year old that was privileged to complete 2 years of National service in the mid-1950’s, I am able to say that if not the happiest days of my life those years were amongst the most interesting and informative I have experienced; they also gave me friends which I am still fortunate enough to have. Further, my experiences then allowed me to see how bright was the future if one took the initiative and, ‘Carry on’ style, grasped all the opportunities presented to one.I sign myself a satisfyingly happy homosexual who can look back with affection to those outwardly sexually repressive, but inwardly wildly gay, l950’s.