If homosexuality is ‘frowned’ upon now, image belonging with the community at a time when the world was at war. Now imagine a gay soldier falling in love with a man, almost 70 years ago. Not only was homosexuality illegal back then, but if two soldiers were found having gay sex then they were shot dead.
While on a military training during World War Two, Gilbert Bradley was deeply in love. Mr Bradley exchanged hundreds of letters with his sweetheart. This person merely signed the letters with the initial “G”. It was discovered more than 70 years later, that G stood for Gordon. And Gilbert had been head over heels in love with a man.
These letters, which came to light after Mr Bradley’s death in 2008, are therefore very unusual. And shed an important light on LGBTQ relationships during the world war.
The Forbidden Love Affair:
Wednesday January 24th 1939
… I lie awake all night waiting for the postman in the early morning, and then when he does not bring anything from you I just exist, a mass of nerves…
All my love forever,
Information gained from these letters indicate that Mr Bradley was a very reluctant soldier. He clearly did not want to be in the Army. And even pretended to have epilepsy to avoid it at all costs.
However his plans failed to work and in 1939 he was stationed at Park Hall Camp in Oswestry, Shropshire; to receive training as an anti-aircraft gunner.
He had already fallen hard in love with Gordon Bowsher. The pair met on a houseboat holiday in Devon in 1938. At that time, Mr Bowsher was with Mr Bradley’s nephew.
Mr Bowsher came from a very well-to-do family. The Bowshers owned tea plantations and his father ran a shipping company.
When war broke out after a year, he trained as an infantryman. And was stationed at several locations across the nation.
The 40s Was A Difficult Time For The LGBTQ:
February 12 1940, Park Grange
My own darling boy,
There is nothing more than I desire in life but to have you with me constantly…
…I can see or I imagine I can see, what your mother and father’s reaction would be… the rest of the world have no conception of what our love is – they do not know that it is love…
Leading a homosexual life in the 1940s was an incredibly difficult task. Gay activity was a court-martial offence. Jail sentences for the so-called “gross indecency” were very common. And most of the society strongly disapproved same-sex relationships or couples.
Things only changed for the better later in 1967, when the Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into picture. This Act allowed consenting men aged 21 and over to legally have gay relationships. However, being openly gay in the armed services was not permitted until 2000.
The letters emerged after Mr Bradley’s death in 2008. Such letters are highly rare since most homosexual couples from back then usually get rid of anything so revealing said gay rights activist Peter Roscoe.
In one such letter Mr Bowsher forces his lover to “do one thing for me in deadly seriousness. I want all my letters destroyed. Please darling do this for me. Til then and forever I worship you.”
A Positive, Hopeful Vibe:
February 1st, 1941 K . C. Gloucester Regiment, Priors Road, Cheltenham
My darling boy,
For years I had it drummed into me that no love could last for life…
I want you darling seriously to delve into your own mind, and to look for once in to the future.
Imagine the time when the war is over and we are living together… would it not be better to live on from now on the memory of our life together when it was at its most golden pitch.
Your own G.
Mr Roscoe said that these love letters are genuinely inspiring in their positivity.
“There is a gay history and it isn’t always negative and tearful,” he said to the BBC. “So many stories are about arrests – Oscar Wilde, Reading Gaol and all those awful, awful stories.
“But despite all the awful circumstances, gay men and lesbians managed to rise above it all and have fascinating and good lives despite everything.”
Did they manage to find their happily ever after? Well, probably not given the circumstances and society they lived through. But honestly I think we all should focus on the fact true love has no boundaries or era-limits or time limits. When true love hits you, it makes you stronger.
Next Read: It is Impossible To Legalise Same-Sex Weddings In India: Centre to Court