Homosexuality Beyond the Metropolis: Queer Identity in ‘Provincial’ Post-war Britain, 1952–1955

Lord Montagu arrest, Lymington 7 November 1953

Lord Montagu arrest, Lymington 7 November 1953

Havelock Ellis once compared homosexuality to colour-blindness. You do not punish people for being colour-blind, and you do not force them to take medical treatment, for none exists. Is it any more logical, or just, to punish people like me? – Peter Wildeblood

Between reading Peter Wildeblood’s written evidence, and interviewing him at the Home Office in May 1955, John Wolfenden took a pencil to Wildeblood’s colour-blindness analogy and retorted with the following note:  “Yes, if their colour-blindness results in them driving across traffic lights.”2  Wildeblood’s written evidence had irritated Wolfenden, who had uncharacteristically flooded its margins with both question and exclamation marks, and had carelessly peppered the official document with ash from his iconic pipe. His last annotation goes some way in explaining the impact that Wildeblood’s testimony had upon the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Wolfenden Committee): “What to do with them?” Wildeblood was one of only three queer men to provide testimony before Wolfenden, all of whom were defined as ‘respectable’, middle-class, metropolitan men. As Richard Hornsey has demonstrated, Wolfenden’s traffic light retort unwittingly spoke to the “mode of social governance through which social consensus was then being sought” which paralleled with the terms through which “queer male behaviour had already become constituted as a metropolitan threat.”3 The Committee’s formation was undeniably metro-centric and its formation had caused much unease within the Cabinet, with Churchill declaring that he did not want to be memorialised as the Prime Minister who had made “the law on homosexuality more lenient.”4 However, the arguments for the implementation of a Home Office enquiry were founded upon the basis that recent events in London had caused a “public scandal.”5 The effect of it’s recommendations would be felt not just by metropolitan based homosexuals, or the more transitory users of London, whom Wildeblood characterised as more “promiscuous” than his metropolitan counterpart.6 Wolfenden’s privatized model of the “respectable‟ homosexual, so vehemently upheld in Wildeblood’s guise, would also touch upon the lives of men who often had no physical relation to the capital, who lived in vast expanse outside of London; contemporarily referred to as ‘provincial’ England.

what tp do

John Wolfenden’s annotations

The imperative of my research is not to challenge the importance of London for many homosexual men in the post-war era, which remained a significant site of queer expression for those who experienced it, but rather to question the assertion of London’s centrality in shaping queer identity in post-war Britain. By re-evaluating and challenging the locale of arguably the most publicised case of the post-war era, within which Wildeblood’s persecution had spurred his idealistic and exclusionary model of the ‘respectable’ post-war homosexual, and by mapping many provincial case studies, I will demonstrate how  many homosexual men enjoyed a more transient relationship with the metropolis than has been historicised hitherto. Moreover, for many homosexual men across post-war Britain, London remained a distant setting, encountered only in representational form, via the wireless, during newsreels at the cinema, and in daily newspapers. This absence neither restricted queer men in achieving their desires, nor thwarted the formation of identity. Rather men adapted their spatial geographies to realise their needs, against a landscape of hostility that was distinct from that found in the Metropolis.  To demonstrate how homosexual men negotiated queer experience within this revised spatial focus, I have considered a variety of disciplines and an evidential base which provides a broader understanding of queer life outside of London. The official documentation that I have utilized, which includes a previously closed record of the Winchester Assizes notebook obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, provides an important framework on which to pin some of the more historically contested autobiographical accounts of the events that I contextualise. The post-war debate on homosexuality became crystallised around the Wolfenden Committee, which sat between 1954 and 1957, and therefore material has been drawn from the Minutes of Evidence to ascertain both the contemporary concerns regarding homosexuality and its spatial considerations. My oral interview with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu gives further dimension to the specificity of my re-contextualisation of his case, and compliments the interviews conducted by the Hall Carpenter Archives gay men’s oral history group, and the memories recorded by Kevin Porter and Jeffrey Weeks. In examining the representations and concerns surrounding homosexuality laid out by journalists, and the effects that their works had upon homosexual men in post-war Britain, I consider Adrian Bingham’s research into how the press “reflected and shaped attitudes to sex and private life.”7 Whilst I utilize examples of sexualized reports pertaining to ‘high profile’ cases in national newspapers, I also explore the many examples of reports into ordinary men’s legal experience, both in the national and local press. Lastly, focusing on the historiographical debate surrounding the assertion of a witch-hunt during my period of analysis, I draw upon the vast field of statistics provided to the Wolfenden Committee which, although problematic, give an acute indication of the extent of homosexual arrests throughout England and Wales.

Why Queer London? The Centrality of the Metropolis in Post-war Homosexual Historiography  

When we think of ‘gay’ men and ‘gay’ culture we think of cities. – Matt Cook

The historiography of post-war homosexuality has assumed a dominant discourse that overwhelmingly champions London’s urban lifestyle as central to constructions of selfhood and identity. Foucauldian-inspired hypotheses have transposed and merged the paradigmatic shift of “the making of the modern homosexual” onto the process of urbanization.9 Homosexual identity within this framework is, then, a by-product of the municipal locale. Matt Cook states that now, when we “think of ‘gay’ men and ‘gay’ culture we think of cities.”10 Matt Houlbrook adds that “being queer is equated with the cultural experience of urban life,” and emphasises the “cultural imperative” of queer migration.”11 Houlbrook places weight upon the fact that the historicization of this discourse has been largely achieved by academics that have chosen the capital as their home. He then adds that because it was in “the city that regulatory agencies and newspapers have generated the most extensive and vivid evidence of such practices in the past” the capital holds the “accumulated historical traces of queer male networks, both visually and through surviving historical record.”12 The scale of the archived material relating to homosexual activity in London accounts for much of the historical analysis of this locale. Due to the variety of cultural experiences it had to offer, the ‘celebrity’ of many of its inhabitants and the political imperative of parliament, London’s prominence was rarely absent from the newspapers distributed daily across Britain.  Accounting for the broader context of the press’s assumed fixation of homosexuality within London, Frank Mort identifies the London Olympic Games, the Festival of Britain and the Coronation as key acceleration events for this heightened metro-centric focus.13 Richard Hornsey asserts how the “Britain Can Make It‟ exhibition established London’s centrality in the reconstruction of Britain following warfare, and gave British citizens “an affective taster of how such choreographies would feel to live through.”14 He utilizes beautifully the striking Abercrombie and Forshaw futuristic and cell-like map which analysed ‘London’s Social Functionality’, encapsulates with lucid colour the vast contemporary fixation of Metropolitan prominence, and how “London established the tone for the new spatial order…which remained hegemonic during the late 1940s and well into the 50s.”15 (Plate 1) This metro-centric concern, often disseminated by the newspapers that Mort and Houlbrook cite, extended to a flagrant focus upon the ‘vices’ within the city in which they operated. However, they did not exclusively expose homosexual activity within the boundaries of London; often paradoxically proselytising the imperative of shielding Britain from the ‘virus’ of homosexuality within the city, and yet revealing in gratuitous details the ‘vice’ in existence outside. The national press therefore exposed to its readers a broader dynamic of queer experience. By utilizing the material which speaks to a greater facet of spatial queer understanding a broader field of analysis is achievable.

Plate 1: Patrick Abercrombie and JH Forshaw, „London: social and functional analysis‟ in The County of London Plan, (Macmillan, 1943), facing p. 21

Plate 1: Patrick Abercrombie and JH Forshaw, „London: social and functional analysis‟ in The County of London Plan, (Macmillan, 1943), facing p. 21

Bell and Valentine’s revisionist analysis asserts that this metro-centric focus has “functioned to over-emphasise the centrality of the urban and underplay the importance of rural, familial and subjective spaces to the formation and expression of queer identities.”16 Emma Vickers has demonstrated how more transient spaces outside of the capital have been overlooked in historiographical analysis, rendered “invisible” by the “emphasis placed upon the metropolis.”17 Demonstrating the fiscal and temporal restrictions that warfare realised upon soldiers, Vickers illuminates how queer men forged “their own sites of expression and sociability.”18 The lasting effects of warfare realised in the post-war context of continued rationing and increased austerity provided many of the same limitations. Moreover, the relative inaccessibility of London for a vast proportion of Britain did not preclude homosexual experience across the nation, who instead negotiated their own methods to fulfilment. For those living within reach of the capital, it too could serve only as a transient location without the cultural imperative that has been so readily applied to it. One of the most cited cases of homosexual prosecution in the post-war period has been utilized to demonstrate the imperative of queer London in post-war Britain. Its strength, however, relies upon failing to account for the prominent ‘provincial’ locations where the much publicised events occurred.

The ‘Montagu’ Trials in Context

I don’t think I was made fully aware of the law until years later, when the Montagu case came up. Then you realised that you could be had up for something that happened to you three years before. – ‘Tony’

The ‘Montagu’ trials of 1953 and 1954 have assumed a prominence within the history of queer men in the post-war era, largely owing to the sizeable newspaper coverage that was afforded to detailing the case and the polemical accounts of the trial that Wildeblood provided both to the Wolfenden Committee and in his book Against the Law. Weeks asserts that the trial “illustrated the current mood” of the post-war era, whilst Jeffery-Poulter remarks that the trial “overshadowed” other contemporary cases.20 21 Mort places the trials as “part of a series of highly publicized metropolitan cases… that punctuated the immediate post-war period.”22 Houlbrook concurs, and locates the trials as emblematic of the “profound anxieties surrounding queer urban culture and [the] growing intensity with which sexual offences were policed.”23 Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s first arrest and trial in 1953, in which he was acquitted on charges against a boy scout, initiated a national media frenzy. The cause célèbre of Lord Montagu’s second trial, accused alongside Daily Mail correspondent Peter Wildeblood, and Montagu’s cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers in 1954, held the front pages of the tabloid newspapers for the duration of the eight-day trial. Whilst a variety of London’s societal and public locations were key to the prosecution’s evidence, such as the Westminster Theatre in the West End where Montagu entertained the accused, and Piccadilly Underground Station, where Wildeblood infamously met Edward McNally, the rural locations of Beaulieu in Hampshire, and Pitt-Rivers’ home in Dorset are rarely considered within the analysis of the case. The transitory reality of the metropolis for four of the key participants of the case calls into the question the legitimacy of claiming the case as a product of queer urban experience.

Plate 2: Exterior of Lord Montagu‟s beach hut at Beaulieu, Hampshire. Circa 1954 in Beaulieu, Lord Montagu, Wheels within Wheels: An Unconventional Life. 1st ed. (Weidnfeld & Nicholson, 2000) (un-paginated)

Plate 2: Exterior of Lord Montagu’s beach hut at Beaulieu, Hampshire. Circa 1954 in Beaulieu, Lord Montagu, Wheels within Wheels: An Unconventional Life. 1st ed. (Weidnfeld & Nicholson, 2000) (un-paginated)

When the three accused men were arrested in 8am raids on 9th January 1954, they were all located at their primary residences. Although Lord Montagu owned a flat in Mayfair, it was in his chief residence in Hampshire that he was awoken and arrested.24 Pitt-Rivers proclaimed to the arresting officers at his home in Dorset, that “it is all part of this ridiculous witch-hunt going on all over the country.”25 Wildeblood too was arrested at his home in London. His arrest was made by officers from both the “Hampshire Constabulary and New Scotland Yard.”26 All were taken to Winchester Police Station to be charged. For Lord Montagu, it was a 6 mile journey, but for Pitt-Rivers the journey was 45 miles, and Wildeblood 101, from Scotland Yard where he had been questioned.  They were then formally remanded before the Lymington magistrate. Wildeblood believed that the location of Hampshire had been specifically chosen because of the “local prejudice” that would have accumulated after the collapse of Montagu’s first trial.27 Certainly, as Wildeblood postulates, the likelihood of finding an impartial jury would have been complex owing to the extensive newspaper coverage of the trial. However, the reasoning for trying the three accused at Winchester Assizes was as a direct result of the locations provided by Edward McNally and John Reynolds.

Plate 3: Interior of Lord Montagu‟s beach hut at Beaulieu, Hampshire. Circa 1954 in Beaulieu, Lord Montagu, Wheels within Wheels: An Unconventional Life. 1st ed. (Weidnfeld & Nicholson, 2000) (un-paginated)

Plate 3: Interior of Lord Montagu‟s beach hut at Beaulieu, Hampshire. Circa 1954 in Beaulieu, Lord Montagu, Wheels within Wheels: An Unconventional Life. 1st ed. (Weidnfeld & Nicholson, 2000) (un-paginated)

During a kit search on 16th December 1953, letters were found by the RAF which connected Wildeblood, Pitt-Rivers and Montagu to McNally and Reynolds.28 On 23rd December, the airmen were interrogated at RAF Acton in London. McNally spent eighteen hours being interrogated, and Reynolds eleven-and-a-half.29 McNally agreed to give evidence on the false understanding that Reynolds had already agreed to do so, and that no prosecution would be considered for him or the 24 other men implicated by the other letters found.30 McNally’s statement and evidence cited the capital as forming his relationship with Wildeblood, having met and continued a relationship there. Wildeblood had introduced Montagu to McNally and Reynolds at the West End production of “Dial “M‟ for Murder‟.31 The press devoured the capital’s “lavish‟ leisure arena, and the supposed champagne that had been consumed: “it was cider” remembered Lord Montagu, “I laughed at them doing that.”32 However, the evidence that Reynolds gave placed London as an introductory locale for Montagu, Pitt-Rivers and himself: a temporary site that aided the alleged sexual encounters which allegedly occurred in Hampshire and Dorset.

Plate 4: Daily Mirror, 25th March, 1954, pp 8-9

Plate 4: Daily Mirror, 25th March, 1954, pp 8-9

Wildeblood’s correspondence to McNally provided the relevant information to uphold the provincial trial locale: “I am going down to Beaulieu for a few days… is there any chance of you being able to get away?”33  It was at Beaulieu that McNally and Reynolds claimed that “illicit intercourse‟ occurred after an “all-male party, with dancing.”34 The accommodation, a beach-hut, was described in court and in the press as “lavish”; a point contested by Montagu, who remarked how bemused he was that “the world’s media and readers seemed to soak up every sordid detail with the utmost seriousness.”35 The contemporary pictures provided by Lord Montagu demonstrate the basic interior of the location; far removed from the opulent appointment of Palace House.36 (Plates 2 & 3) It was the suggested exuberance of the beach hut that demonstrates the contemporary fixation both of the legal system and the press in objectifying vice. Reynolds subsequently changed his evidence against Lord Montagu, refuting his assertion that “attempted buggery‟ had taken place in the beach-hut, an action that Lord Montagu equates to simply “just being nice. Kind and decent. Human. In other words, he had a conscience.”37 Lord Montagu’s sentence consequently totalled 12 months imprisonment in comparison to Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers‟ 18 months. The Daily Mirror’s eight-day front-page dedication to the trial culminated in a middle-page spread, picturing Lord Montagu at Beaulieu. (Plate 4) The article appears as an obituary to all that Lord Montagu has lost; the consequences of his imprisonment illuminated by his lonely butler futilely drawing the curtains to the “spacious rooms” of a stately home whose owner is “not at home.”38 Montagu’s loss is emphasised again by the mournful picture of his ex-fiancé headed with the caption “I am going away.”39 Just as The Mirror had doctored Wildeblood’s image to suggest effeminacy, against the burly figure of manhood in the form of the prosecutions‟ G.D. Roberts, Q.C (plate 5), this juxtaposition of Montagu outside of ‘provincial’ Beaulieu alongside his ex-fiancé suggested that he had forfeit not only his reputation, his societal prowess, but ultimately his masculinity.

Plate 5: Daily Mirror, 19th March, 1954, p.6

Plate 5: Daily Mirror, 19th March, 1954, p.6

The ‘Montagu’ trials owe much of their prominence to the flood of media attention that they received; Lord Montagu’s status ensured that the front pages of both local and national newspapers contained the details of his trial. They demonstrate the class concerns of the day, chiefly in the treatment of Reynolds and McNally. Hounded after the trial, McNally found life intolerable and decided to take advantage of the ‘Ten Pound Pom’ scheme, migrating to Australia. Tragically, he found no solace in his new locale; his identity well known due to the wide dissemination of British newspapers, he “had a terrible time. Bullied for it.”40 The impact of the press’ focus on the trials touched countless queer men’s lives across Britain. Lord Montagu recalls hearing how “Men burnt their letters. Chimneys across Chelsea were spurting with black smoke from letters.”41 For Tony, in London, reading about the trials brought a realisation of the full legal implications of his sexuality: “then you realised that you could be had up for something that happened to you three years before.”42 Barry in Oxford remembered “very vividly the Montagu case,” and having been made aware of the legal dangers, bought “the News of the World every Sunday, to keep abreast with the court cases.”43 David, located in Kent, emphasised that the trials “affected everybody that was gay. If you were very feminine, you suffered. I used to get up in the morning and read the newspapers, mainly because I was fascinated that there were other people around doing the same as I was doing.”44 The dissemination of information surrounding the ‘Montagu’ trials realized a deep and lasting impact on the lives of queer readers. To understand a broader dynamic of how the media enhanced fears surrounding homosexuality in post-war Britain, it is necessary to account for Fleet Street’s interests in disseminating a picture of vice from across Britain, and how queer men’s lives were challenged by it.

 “Sex-sodden Newspapers”: The Role of the Media

IS IT TRUE that male degenerates infest the West End of London and the social centres of many provincial cities? –Sunday Pictorial, 25 May, 1952, p.6

The British press in the post-war was a notoriously homophobic one. Wildeblood described that he “could hardly have chosen a profession in which being a homosexual was more of a handicap than it was in Fleet Street.”46 This handicap related not simply to his own sexuality, but a variety of sexual ‘handicaps’ that were heightened by an increasingly lucid assertion of a moral code laid out for readers. With ongoing newspaper rationing forcing editors to maintain a balance between one of their key income outlets, advertising, and engaging with sufficient material to retain a competitive standing in the growing market, sensationalism sold newspapers.47 Houlbrook notes that as Fleet Street housed the key players within the market, they upheld the propensity to focus on ‘vice’ within the capital.48 The press’ escalating dissemination of ‘vice’ outside of the capital during the post-war, however, was increasingly evident, and moreover the subject of homosexuality in general was approached with far more clarity than had been afforded hitherto. Cases were frequently reported from outside of the metropolis, and their worth was determined by their scale or ‘peculiar’ spectacle that deviated from a ‘normal’ ideal.


News of the World, 1st February 1953

A contemporary survey conducted by Justice Tudor-Rees revealed that from examining all national and provincial newspapers from October 1954 to February 1955, in total 321 individuals were reported as charged with homosexual offences.49 Pearce’s study of the same period shows that the majority of these cases were located in the provincial newspapers, and in the News of the World.50 The nuclear family model held the heart of normality, and The News of the World frequently exploited deviations from this form and had a long history of circulating sensationalised courtroom information to its audience.51 One of many such examples can be found in an article entitled “HUSBAND DRESSED AS A WOMAN‟.52 Despite quoting at the end of the article the divorce-court judges assertions that Mr. Frederick Mellor’s choice to wear women’s clothing provided no reason to ‘suppose that his behaviour [would] …develop into the sort that [would bring] him within the reach of the criminal law,” the article infers his cross dressing as a tacit indication of homosexuality, his unsuitability as a father, and the justification for his divorce.53 The Plymouth based case reiterated the patriarchal ideals of the editor by emphasising the femininity of those involved in ‘vice’. Frederick Mellor’s crime was amplified and objectified by his possession of women’s “underwear, nylon stockings and high heeled shoes,” details which were emphasised to suggest they were incongruously feminine acquisitions in an age of continued rationing.54

Pearce suggests that the explicit dissemination of a visible identification of vice was often complimented by “using a vocabulary which emphasizes that [homosexuals were] less than the normal human citizen.”55 Frederick Mellor’s name is not introduced until the fourth paragraph of the article, having previously been referred to as the ‘husband of Mollie’. ‘Horrified’ is the word used to explain Mollie’s initial reaction at discovering him in women’s clothing; which is heightened by the press by emphasising her ‘…narrow, provincial’ upbringing. The ignorance suggested on Mollie‟s part emphasises her innocence. Her ‘provincial’ upbringing is used to demonstrate the peculiarity of the locale of the case, and the threat of the misplaced occurrence is pacified only by Frederick’s fight from the provinces to Johannesburg.56 The duality of the word ‘provincial’ plays an important role in the articles construction of ‘vice’. The suggested provincial, or ‘unsophisticated’, nature of Mollie’s upbringing within the provincial, or ‘unfashionable’, locale in which her husband has hidden his vice provides a spectacle of ignorance, which brings a salacious yet ultimately sympathetic tone to her experience. The article is intended, by the editor, to remove the audience from what he perceives they will find familiar, so that they can read, experience, condemn and retain comfort in their own lifestyle. As Pearce comments, the audience has “broken none of [their] convoluted rules, and yet [have] lived through the forbidden experiences and gained the additional pleasure of moral indignation.”57


News of the World 1st August 1954

Disseminating information regarding homosexual activity within the press appeared in various forms and often provided salacious information in the guise of condemnation. The Sunday Express article entitled “OUR SEX-SODDEN NEWSPAPERS” provided its audience with a critique of the tabloid press’ diffusion of vice, whilst simultaneously exposing explicit details of Kinsey’s latest publication of Sexual Behaviour in the Female Human. By declaring that in “thousands of ordinary, decent, British homes mothers and fathers will look at their newspapers today and declare that the Sunday Press is a disgrace to Britain,” the reader’s conscience is placated by being invited to join the condemnation as part of an idealised „nuclear‟ family model. 58 Similarly, the Yorkshire Post’s article, “A moral miasma,” stated that “homosexuality is eating into the very vitals of the nation like a cancer. The public would be horrified if they knew its extent, and it is on the increase.”59 The disclosure of a “cancer” of homosexuality spreading across Britain, married with the notion that the country needed to be protected from true knowledge of the “extent” of its increase is clearly intended to provoke alarm. The dissemination the chain-prosecution tactics employed across Britain in relation to homosexual offences is in stark contrast to this covert exposure of homosexuality outside of the metropolis. Vividly displayed in the News of the World’s article ”THEY INFESTED D A CITY,‟ the 28 men sentenced were accused of utilizing various provincial areas around “the Midlands” and Birmingham.60 Described as “such men as shop keepers, factory workers, farm labourers”, each of the 28 working-class men’s names, addresses and occupations were detailed for the readers, their identities gained from “an address book” which contained the names of “213 men”61 Their ‘vice’ is coloured by the suggestion that they wore make-up, and called themselves “feminine” names.62 Objectified by expensive and incongruous feminine commodities, the article concludes stating that their “disgusting practices would corrupt the life of innocent communities.”63

Plate 6: Bernard Dobson photographed reading the Sunday Pictorial‟s „Evil Men‟ article. Hampstead, London, 1952 in Farnham, M & Marshall, P (eds.) Walking After Midnight: Gay Men‟s Life Stories. 2nd ed (Routledge, 1989) p. 62

Plate 6: Bernard Dobson photographed reading the Sunday Pictorial‟s „Evil Men‟ article. Hampstead, London, 1952 in Farnham, M & Marshall, P (eds.) Walking After Midnight: Gay Men‟s Life Stories. 2nd ed (Routledge, 1989) p. 62

The constructed image of homosexuality within the tabloid press had differing effects upon queer readers. Bernard Dobson’s much cited bold pose with the Sunday Pictorial’s “Evil Men” article, which Higgins utilizes to suggest the “defiant attitude” shown by young men when their sexuality was “publically vilified,” provides an important but limited analysis of the varying effects of tabloid journalism when used in isolation (see plate 6).64 One respondent to the National Gay and Lesbian Survey from Canterbury remembered the distressing image of “repulsive old men…hanging around toilets waiting to seduce younger men, or of rather scruffy working class men who ‘did it in public toilets’. The images, which were so at odds with his own identity, came from ‘regular reports of [redacted] being in court for gross indecency in a public place’ which appeared in the local papers ‘fairly regularly.’65 Fred, living in Barry, Wales, utilized the information provided about ‘Johnny’s conviction to initiate a sexual relationship with him upon his release from gaol.66 Reliant upon information provided in his local press, which explicitly intended to demonstrate the legal consequences of homosexual activity, Fred’s provincial locale did not restrict his ability to seek sexual experience. Utilizing and subverting the intentions of the newspapers information, Fred negotiated around the comparably limited options that Bernard Dobson remembers in Hampstead Heath, and constructed a means of fulfilment determined by his locale.  Fred recalls how his newspaper-forged relationship with Johnny was short lived, owing to Johnny’s subsequent arrest for another incident on Barry Island. Upon his release from gaol, Fred advised him that the best thing he could do would be to “clear out of this place altogether, I says. Because if you don’t, you’ll be in and out of gaol all the time.”67 The seclusion of provincial queer space enhanced greatly the ease in which local constabularies could re-arrest known homosexuals. The ease of identification lay in stark contrast to that of more municipal locales, which housed far more varieties of venues for opportunistic encounters. Provincial sexual misdemeanour’s were chiefly utilized in the tabloid press to construct both the suggestion of ‘base’, feminine sexual perversion, but also to affirm the ignorance of those accused. The press simultaneously displayed reluctance to reveal the extent of homosexual activity in the interest of the nation, whist regularly demonstrating examples of its intensity. Bernard Dobson felt that there was a “sort of a witch hunt of gays in that particular period that went on for two or three years,” heightened by his revulsion of the Sunday Pictorial’s ‘Evil Men’ article.68 Fred, however, removed from the centrality of London, stated that he could see the “purge” around him.69 Both construct the idea of a witch hunt: a much contested suggestion within the historiographical analysis of the post-war period.

The ‘Myth’ of a Witch-Hunt? 

Our present prejudice is at least three thousand years old. It is based on ignorance of the nature of sex today across Britain and upon primitive superstition. It is unworthy of the twentieth century world.

The Montagu trials have not only been cited as the apex of post-war homosexual persecution, but have been central to historical debates pertaining to an organised ‘witch hunt’ against queer men. Weeks asserts that the “five-fold” increase of homosexual persecution since peacetime correlated to a post-war trend in “chain prosecutions” which he believes relates to a “excess of zeal” on behalf of the police. 71  The orchestration of Weeks’ ‘witch-hunt’ came from “the top”: notably the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Theobald Matthew, the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe and the newly established Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir John Nott-Bower.72 1953 and 1954 were the climactic years of Weeks’ period of heightened persecution, with the Montagu trials as his key example. Jivani concurs, and states that Maxwell-Fyfe’s infamous speech in the House of Commons, in which he stated that homosexuals were, in general, “exhibitionists and proselytizers and a danger to others,”73 waved a “green flag for the witch-hunt.”74 Wildeblood was a key player in establishing this historical discourse by utilizing his own experience to openly demonstrate the personal effect of the increased persecution, despite his incredulous statement that “it seemed inconceivable that the [witch-hunt against homosexuals] should have been extended to this country.”75 The prominent cause célèbres that are utilised to character homosexual life in the post-war era, including the actor John Gielgud and Labour MP William Field in 1953, creates a notion of selectivity toward well know men within the persecution of homosexuals. Lord Montagu states that “it felt quite obvious I was being made an example.”76 The unprecedented volume of newspaper coverage that was afforded toward the Montagu trials, which Lord Montagu describes as “relentless,” certainly facilitated this experience of intensified persecution.77 Although popular contemporary and historical examples, these prominent trials formed a minute percentage of the total number of homosexual prosecutions in post-war Britain and their relations to the city do not speak for a national experience. Higgins rejects the theory of the witch-hunt by dismissing Wildeblood’s Against the Law as a reliable source, stating that the historians who have elevated it to primary material are negligently desperate to “believe Wildeblood that the trials of Lord Montagu and his friends were the show-trials of a homosexual witch-hunt launched by a reactionary administration.”78 Wildeblood’s assertions were not simply based on his own feelings, but were backed up, he claimed, by an exposé article written by Donald Horne, which appeared in the Sydney Sunday Telegraph.79

Entitled ‘BIG NAMES INVOLVED IN LONDON CLEAN-UP OF MALE VICE’; Horne’s article focuses exclusively upon vice within the capital, with a misleadingly limited knowledge of the extent of the police commissioner’s jurisdiction outside of the Metropolis. Its assertion is also heavily based on the key ‘big named’ cases that have become so synonymous with post-war homosexual persecution.80 Higgins’ contextualisation of the article clearly demonstrates the many inconsistencies of Horne’s assertions; but by basing his rejection of the witch-hunt on a dismissal of the very article that he so vehemently criticizes Wildeblood and historians for upholding their claims, he brings little other evidence towards supporting his own argument. Houlbrook’s discourse also questions the legitimacy of the witch-hunt, stating that the ‘myth’ is questionable owing to a shift in strategic operations within three Metropolitan constabularies, which he concludes were responsible for this ‘misleading’ idea.81 Both Higgins and Houlbrooks’ assertions, however, can only be upheld if applied only to the city from within which they observe. Pitt-Rivers had proclaimed to the officers that his arrest was “all part of this ridiculous witch-hunt going on all over the country.”82 Whilst Pitt-Rivers’ anxieties upon arrest do not provide evidence to support this notion, they do call into question the geographical scope of analysis that should be applied in order to evaluate the legitimacy of the ‘witch-hunt’ and moreover, query why homosexuals felt that they were persecuted as a part of it. Pitt-Rivers did not feel that he was part of a Metropolitan ‘crackdown’, but part of a larger, national persecution of homosexual activity. Hall suggests a difference in the arrests in ‘provincial’ areas, stating that “local police launched ‘provincial pogroms’ and viciously prosecuted embers of networks discovered through legally dubious searches or extorted confessions.”83 Despite its metro-centricity, the Wolfenden Committee’s files contain a vital series of statistical documents that holds part of the key to questioning the scope and validity of the ‘witch-hunt.’

Figure 1: Present Author: Statistics of Homosexual Offences, compiled using submissions to the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, HO 345/8

Figure 1: Present Author: Statistics of Homosexual Offences, compiled using submissions to the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, HO 345/8

During the committee’s interview with Phillip Allen, Deputy Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, John Wolfenden asked if “it [was] possible to distinguish between London and the provinces in any way?”84 Having be provided with the national homosexual crime statistics, Wolfenden felt that the committee, in a “uninformed way,” had supposed that the “greater part of this increase…might be attributable to London and the immediate neighbourhood,” but conceded that this conclusion was just a “guess and speculation.”85 The statistics that were subsequently provided, despite their limitations, provide a lucid indication of a national purge on homosexual activity: one that re-ignites the plausibility of a witch-hunt and which questions further why the centrality of London has shaped its validity. Organized by each police district in England and Wales, and divided between ‘UNNATURAL OFFENCES’, ‘ATTEMPTS TO COMMIT UNNATURAL OFFENCES’ and ‘INDECENCY BETWEEN MALES’, the three-page document provides figures of homosexual incidents across Britain from 1937, 1938 and crucially during the period from 1950 to 1954, during Week’s contested assertion of a witch-hunt.86 The totals for England and Wales show a dramatic increase from the 1950 total of 4,416 offences, to 6,357 offences in 1954. By utilizing the detailed breakdown of how each regional constabulary’s statistics affected this overall national total, it becomes clear that the increase came not from within the Metropolis, as Wolfenden and his committee had postulated, but beyond in the ‘provinces’. Out of the 128 constabulary’s statistics for 1953, for example, 76 showed an increase in homosexual activity outside London; whereas the Metropolitan police district reported 43 fewer offences than in 1952 (Fig. 1 & 2). 77 constabularies provided statistics showing an increase in homosexual activity in 1954, and whilst the Metropolitan district activity increased by 42 incidents, it still remained 15 incidents below its peak in 1951. The statistics do have obvious limitations; for example it is not possible to see where repeat arrests have been made, a feature that Pearce found so problematic when examining results from newspaper statistics analysis.87 The report also takes no consideration into the post-war population increases and fluidity, maintaining a static populous count from 1938 to 1954.

Figure 2: Present Author: Statistics of Homosexual Offences, compiled using submissions to the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, HO 345/8

Figure 2: Present Author: Statistics of Homosexual Offences, compiled using submissions to the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, HO 345/8

Wolfenden found little use in the statistics, regretting that they shed little light on the “prevalence of homosexual behaviour [and] activity” outside of the law.88 Statistical analysis formed part of a long-established strategy of information gathering, which as James Scott argues, defined the ‘legibility’ of the modern state.89 Unable to use the statistics to gain an indication of how many men could be defined as homosexual in Britain, and lamenting that Kinsey’s speculations to the committee of the extent of Britain’s homosexuality could not be utilized without the substantive research that he had compiled in the United States, the statistics remained unused. 90 Nevertheless, the statistics clearly demonstrate a substantial increase in police activity toward homosexuals across Britain, and not merely confined to London and its more immediate neighbourhood as has been both asserted and contested. With such a clear demonstration of an increase in police activity within more provincial locations of Britain, and the widespread acknowledgement of the atmosphere of persecution amongst queer men, the question of a witch-hunt has chiefly relied upon who is accounted for within its framework. In refuting the witch-hunt, Higgins states that “by directing our attention to a specific campaign… we miss the real witch-hunts in the English provinces.”91  One provincial case, sparsely covered within the historiography of homosexuality in post-war Britain, felt very much a part of a witch-hunt. It’s locale in rural Sussex reveals much about provincial concerns and attitudes toward homosexuality, class and race.

A “Gruesome Tale”: Queer Sex in ‘Provincial’ Sussex 

From what we have heard, The Long House, Ticehurst, has been a pit of iniquity.  You and your master are a menace to young men.

Rupert Croft-Cooke

Rupert Croft-Cooke

During his interview before Wolfenden, Phillip Allen seized an opportunity to destabilize the arguments for a privatized legality of homosexual relations. For his example, he kept anonymous the name of the “man involved [who] might possibly [have] been known by name to some members of the Committee.”93 The scenario which he labelled as a “gruesome tale” describes how a “wealthy gentleman” with “his servant had picked up a couple of sailors in a public house in London and [had] taken them to the country mansion, given them comfortable bedrooms and then at night the host and his servant both tried to interfere with them.”94 Constructing an opulent image of the unnamed country locale, by stating that the accused had a servant and by allocating the word ‘mansion’ to describe the accommodation, class division and luxurious manipulation maintained Allen’s reasoning of corruption; that “people of this kind… should be able to go out and pick up adults to gratify their desires.”95 He hints at how the case became known to the police; a chance discovery, having been picked up for being involved in “some other irrelevant offence.” James Adair, the former Procurator-General at Glasgow, recognised Allen’s case-study and queried this innocent picture of the sailors. Graham-Harrison, appearing before the Committee alongside Allen, intervened and asserted that “it began with two sailors being picked up in a place frequented by homosexuals. I do not think anybody could believe for a moment that they did not know what they were going for.”96  This discord during the join-evidence is important and the suggestion of misrepresentation from Adair happened to be astute, for Allen’s anonymous example had featured both in the tabloid and local press and had been detailed by the “wealthy gentleman” in question, Rupert Croft-Cooke, in his 1955 book The Verdict of You All. It is an account removed from Allen’s evidence, and which illuminates the spatial concerns of provincial homosexual activity in the post-war era. Croft-Cooke’s muted misrepresentation before the committee also stands in stark contrast against Wildeblood’s personally delivered address before Wolfenden, just as Croft-Cooke’s regional viewpoint of the modern homosexual conflicts with Wildeblood’s more prominent vision of privatised metropolitan homosexuality in his similarly formulated book, Against the Law.  Croft-Cooke describes in his account the hostility of provincial life, both before and increasingly after his arrest and trial. His ‘bohemian’ lifestyle grated upon the local residences, especially ‘the gentry’.,97 This hostility was not aided by his public description of their ideals of “determined gentility” as “pretentious and unattractive.”98

Ticehurst, East Sussex 1955

Ticehurst, East Sussex 1955

One element of the case which brings light to a glaringly un-historicized feature of post-war homosexual life is demonstrated in the treatment of Croft-Cooke’s secretary, Joseph Alexander, who was Indian. Alexander had played a central role in initiating the meeting between the servicemen, Donald Charles Dennis and Harold Altoft, at the Fitzroy Tavern in Tottenham Court Road.  Croft-Cooke then drove Alexander, Dennis and Altoft to his house, The Long House in Ticehurst, where they resided for two days. His car having broken a spring, Croft-Cooke was unable to drive Dennis and Altoft back to their barracks, so instead put them on a bus to the station, giving them a pound note each for their train fare.99 It transpired that this money was then used by Dennis and Altoft in a public house near to the station. They subsequently attempted to steal a bicycle from a road-worker named Noble, assaulted him, and then assaulted the intervening police officer, who arrested them; the “irrelevant offence” that Allen so swiftly dismissed.100 During their interrogation the men explained that they had been staying with Croft-Cooke and that “improper relations” had occurred. They did not, as Allen suggested, allege that this had been forced upon them. The police, having secured confessions of homosexual indecency from the servicemen, then offered them immunity from all charges if they agreed to turn Queen’s evidence against their hosts. They agreed. Upon further question at the Royal Naval Barracks, both men tried to revoke their statements, stating that it had been forced out of them by the police; however, their pleas were ignored.101

Croft-Cooke and Alexander were arrested in Ticehurst in a dawn raid, the house extensively searched, and bamboo plant-training canes seized to suggest a variety of iniquitous practices that had occurred in the secluded locale. Croft-Cooke and Alexander were tried separately on 4th October, 1953. Both were convicted; Croft-Cooke sentenced to nine months, and Alexander to three. The trial’s newspaper coverage was not extensive, mainly owing to the social status of Croft-Cooke, whose books rarely made second edition status. The Times briefly mentioned Croft-Cooke’s verdict, with no mention of Alexander: the majority of the report relaying the names of the prominent “gentlemen” who had testified to his good character.102 The News of the World dedicated three-quarters of a page in detailing the case at its verdict.  Alexander’s name is sparingly used, referred to frequently as an “Indian secretary.” Croft-Cooke’s lodger, who was not charged, is introduced simply as “a man named Ronald Crawford”, whereas Alexander’s ethnicity overrides his gendered identification, appearing as an “Indian named Joseph Alexander.”103 The case was more prominently featured in the Sussex press, with extensive coverage in the Evening Argus and the Sussex Daily News. The latter reported that Alexander had been identified as a “dirty young man” in court.104 Whilst this suggestion of ‘dirt’ may have been a comment upon the charges laid against Alexander, the article also detailed how Alexander’s doctor, who had appeared to provide a character witness, had been asked several questions as to Alexander’s cleanliness, his mental health and his level of intellect, to which Dr. Hector Cameron had replied “personally he is clean, refined, intelligent and sensitive.”105 Cameron was not asked to comment upon Alexander’s cleanliness of character, a phrase often asked of character witnesses, but rather to bear witness to the inherently personal question of his hygiene. The Evening Argus mentioned Alexander only once, stating that Croft-Cooke‟s “Indian servant, also sentenced, had contacted various sailors when the opportunity offered.”106 There are no mentions of this explicitly racially assembled line of questioning within the sparse Assize records of the trial, however the racial boundary that the press either constructed or reconstructed implicitly differentiated Alexander from Croft-Cook, both socially and ethnically.  In much the same way that Allen constructed his image of servant/ master, the bourgeoisification of their relationship tapped into a key contemporary class concern surrounding homosexuality in post-war Britain, which Robinson describes as a “bourgeois deviation of working-class sexuality.”107 ‘Master’ and ‘servants’ guilt lay implicitly within their incongruous situate both in social terms and in their physical locale.


Croft-Cooke’s return to Ticehurst with Alexander following their imprisonment was short lived. Determined to publicise an account of his experience of the police, the judiciary and prison life, Croft-Cooke found both the hostility of local life and the continued presence of the law unbearable. Visited by an undercover policeman from Scotland Yard, Croft-Cooke was advised strongly against publishing any material relating to his experience, stating that “a second conviction is very much more easily obtained than a first, especially when the first has been well publicized.”108 Croft-Cooke understood well the ‘warning’, but decided to publish his book, The Verdict of You All from his new home with Alexander, Tangier. Keen to articulate an almost utopian vision of homosexual integration, he does acknowledge his own personal boundaries in terms of identification: “I might have been irritated by any suggestion that I was a homosexual of the inverted, effeminate type, but that would have been because it reflected on my manhood, not because it reflected on my morals.”109 This ‘live and let live’ viewpoint, where identity is inherently personal, but not exclusionary, is in stark contrast to Wildeblood’s idea of the respectable homosexual. He denounced the “effeminate creatures who love to make an exhibition of themselves” stating that if a “more tolerant and just attitude towards their condition is ever adopted by this country it will not be through their efforts.”110  In many ways, Wildeblood made the best of a publicly intolerable situation in his book Against the Law. Escaping the homophobic environment of Fleet Street, Wildeblood’s career as a screen writer and novelist in essence embodied his polemical vision of the legalised, privatised homosexual, which formed part of the basis for Wolfenden’s recommendations for legalised homosexual relations between consenting adults in private. Lord Montagu remembered how influential Bob Boothby had found his reluctance to “shut up shop”, and described how, despite having been “amazed”, his local community in rural Beaulieu had been “very good when [he] came out, with the exception of one or two people.”111 Whilst not overlooking their own tolerance toward homosexuality, it must be taken into account the dependence that a proportion of the community would have had as tenants to Lord Montagu, and the financial gains that they would have realised as a community upon his venture to open his estate as a Motor Museum in 1952. Croft-Cooke, with no such social status, had been identified as an alien in his enclosed rural community, and as such found little encouragement to stay; lamenting that “mud always sticks.”112 His discomfort related not only to his own alienation, but the position that his friend had been put into by association, many of whom he stated had “pass[ed] by me on the other side.”113 Croft-Cooke stated that his arrest had been “the most immensely worthwhile experience in my life,”114 for only after his publicised trial did he realise that his lifestyle could not be accommodated in provincial Ticehurst, in rural Sussex or broader still, Britain.115


The historiography of post-war homosexuality has hitherto excluded the persecution of those outside of London, chiefly as its inclusion destabilises the capitals imperative in culturing queer identity. The persecution of homosexual men increased significantly outside of London during our period, and those outside of the realm of ‘celebrity’, especially working class men, had neither the capital nor communal support to rebuild their lives. Although undeniably tragic, the more prominent cases cited within the aforementioned historical analysis tend to feature a redemptive element to their conclusion, which dovetail neatly within the linear pathway to reform. The explicit dissemination of the sexual lives of McNally, Johnny, Frederick, Alexander and Croft-Cooke, however, resolved with no such positivity and ultimately led to their flight from their ‘provincial’ homes, their rural communities and Britain. Racial difference only enhanced the depth of resentment of sexual distinction, and the crossing of class boundaries facilitated characterisations of misplaced luxury and excessive femininity, in an age pitted by austerity and rationing.  Consideration of the particularities that have led to the exclusion of provincial experience allows a more nuanced understanding of the contemporary fixation of London in post-war journalism and moreover, its centrality in considering reform. Inextricably tied to Wolfenden’s Committee, the re-assessment of the ‘Montagu’ trials locale destabilises its previously asserted metro centric prominence. Its contextualisation speaks to a more transient relationship with the capital, similar to that enjoyed by Croft-Cooke, but is ultimately un-representational of the experiences felt by queer men who had no experience of Metropolitan life. The vivid networks of queer London, that are so amiably disclosed in current historiography, form only part of the paths that homosexual men forged across Britain, often subverting journalistic tools of oppression to facilitate their needs.

Fundamentally, this essay suggests that the histories of queer London, with its many cause célèbres and its reconstructions of identity and reform, are only partial accounts of the every-day experiences of queer identity across Britain. If London’s function was transitory for many queer men, or moreover null, then the experiences of those considered in this essay reflect this focal discord. Often en-mass, spatially considered paths, carved in realising identity were uprooted by local constabularies, and exposed across Britain; fracturing relationships and leaving queer men little resolve but to depart from their communities. The manipulation of the fiscal limitations of working-class men, who couldn’t contemplate such eminent legal representation as Mr. G.D. Roberts, Q.C, often left little alternatives but to submit to providing evidence against lovers, or in turn face the full consequences of the law. Exemplifying acutely the class, spatial, gendered and racial concerns of post-war Britain, the consideration of its provincial counties are paramount in ascertaining the continuities and changes within post-war British society.


1 Home Office (hereafter HO) 345/8, p.8

2 Ibid

3 Hornsey, R. The Spiv and the Architect: Unruly life in Post war Britain. 1st ed. (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) p.3

4 Cabinet Minuets 195/11 p.428

5 Ibid

6  HO 345/13, p.12

7 Bingham, A, Family Newspapers? Sex, private life and the popular British press 1918-1978. 2nd ed.(Oxford University     Press, 1999) p.7

8 Cook, M. London and the Culture of Homosexuality: 1885-1914. 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2003) p.2

9 Houlbrook, M. Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918–1957, 2nd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2005) p.4

10 Cook, M. London and the Culture of Homosexuality, p.2

11 Houlbrook, M. Queer London, p.3 & p.140 12 Ibid, p.4

13 Mort, F. “Mapping Sexual London: The Wolfenden Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution: 1954-7‟ in New Formations: Sexual Geographies 37, (1999). p.92

14 Hornsey, R. “Everything is made of atoms‟: the reprogramming of space and time in post-war London‟ In Journal of Historical Geography 34 (2008) p.97

15 Hornsey, R. Homosexuality and Everyday Life in Post-war London , PhD Thesis, (University of Sussex, 2003) p.7

16 Bell, D. and Valentine, G. (eds.), Mapping Desire, 1st ed. (Routledge, 1995). p.8

17 Vickers, E. „Queer sex in the Metropolis? Place, subjectivity and the Second World War.‟ In Feminist review, 96 (October, 2010) p.58 18 Ibid, p. 59

19 „Tony‟ in Porter, K & Weeks, J (eds). Between the Acts: Lives of Homosexual Men: 1885 – 1967, (Routledge, 1991) p.149

20 Weeks, J, Coming Out – Homosexual Politics in Britain from the Nineteenth Century to the present. 3rd ed. (Quartet      Books, 1990) p.161

21 Jeffrey-Poulter, S. Peers, Queers and Commons: The Struggle for Gay Law Reform from 1950 to the Present. 2nd ed. (Routledge, 1991) p.14

22 Mort, F. Capital Affairs: London and the Making of the Permissive Society. 1st ed. (Yale University Press, 2010) p.105

23 Houlbrook, M. Queer London, p.254

24 Beaulieu, Lord Montagu, Wheels within Wheels: An Unconventional Life. 1st ed. (Weidnfeld & Nicholson, 2000) p.105

25 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.241

26 Wildeblood, P. Against the Law, 1st ed. (Weidnfeld & Nicholson, 1955) p.52

27 Ibid, p.57

28 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.235

29 Wildeblood, P. Against the Law, p.61

30 Ibid

31 Daily Mirror, 16th March, 1954, p.6

32 Present Author. Interview with Lord Montagu 16th November 2010

33 Wildeblood, P to McNally, E, 16th June 1953, cited in Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.238 34 Daily Mirror, 24th March, 1954, p.3

35 Beaulieu, Lord Montagu, Wheels within Wheels, p.111 36 Ibid, (un-paginated)

37 Present Author. Interview with Lord Montagu

38 Daily Mirror, 25th March, 1954, pp 8-9

39 Daily Mirror, 25th March, 1954, p.9

40 Present Author. Interview with Lord Montagu

41 Ibid 42 ‘Tony’ in Porter, K & Weeks, J (eds.). Between the Acts, p.149

43 ‘Barry’ in Porter, K & Weeks, J (eds.). Between the Acts, p.127

44 ‘David’ in Farnham, M & Marshall, P (eds.) Walking After Midnight: Gay Men’s Life Stories. 2nd ed. (Routledge, 1989)  pp.97-98

45 Sunday Pictorial, 25 May, 1952, p.6

46 Wildeblood, P. Against the Law, p.36

47 Bingham, A. Family Newspapers?,  pp.23-24

48 Houlbrook, M. Queer London, p.4

49 Tudor-Rees, J & Usill, H, They stand apart,.1st ed. (Heinemann, 1955) pp.195-7

50 Pearce, F, „The British Press and the „placing‟ of male homosexuality‟ in Cohen, S & Young, J (eds) The manufacture of news: Social problems, deviance and the mass media. 5th ed. (Constable & Co Ltd, 1981) p.306

51 Bingham, A. Family Newspapers?, p.125

52 News of the World, 1st February, 1953, p.4

53 Ibid

54 Ibid

55 Pearce, F “The British Press and the “placing‟ of male homosexuality‟, p.307

56 News of the World, 1st February, 1953, p.4

57 Pearce, F, “The British Press and the “placing‟ of male homosexuality‟, p.307

58 Sunday Express, 23rd August 1953, p.5

59 The Yorkshire Post, 1 March, 1954, p.2

60 News of the World, 1 August, 1954. p.3

61 Ibid

62 Ibid

63 Ibid

64 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.289

65 National Gay and Lesbian Survey, Mass Observation Archive, Box 3, Respondent: 136

66 “Fred‟ In Porter, K & Weeks, J. Between the Acts,p.18

67 Ibid, p.19

68 “Bernard Dobson‟ in Farnham, M & Marshall, P (eds.) Walking After Midnight,  p.68

69 “Fred‟ In Porter, K & Weeks, J. Between the Acts, p.19

70 Ferneaux, R. Famous Criminal Cases – Volume 1. 1st ed. (Alan Wingate, 1954) p.195

71 Weeks, J, Coming Out,  pp.158 – 159

72 Weeks, J, Coming Out,  p. 159

73 Hansard, House of Commons Debates, Vol. 251, col. 1298 (3 December, 1953)

74 Jivani, A. It‟s not unusual: A history of Lesbian and Gay Britain in the twentieth Century. 1st ed. (Indiana University Press, 1997) p.100

75 Wildeblood, P. Against the Law, p.47

76 Present Author. Interview with Lord Montagu

77 Ibid 78 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.231

79 Sydney Sunday Telegraph. 25th October, 1953 p.3

80 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.256

81 Houlbrook, M. Queer London, p. 36

82 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.241

83 Hall, L. Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1880, 2nd ed. (Macmillan, 2000) p.162

84 HO 345/12/2 85 HO 345/12/23

86 HO 345/8

87 Pearce, F, „The British Press and the „placing‟ of male homosexuality‟, p.306

88 Wolfenden, John et al., Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, (HMSO, 1957).p. 18

89 Scott, J. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. 2nd ed. (Yale University Press, 1998) pp.1-2

90 Wolfenden, John et al., Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution, pp.18-19

91 Higgins, P. Heterosexual Dictatorship, p.241

92 News of the World, October 11, 1953. p.3

93 HO 345/12/1

94 Ibid

95 Ibid

96 Ibid

97 Croft-Cooke, R, The Life for Me, 1st ed. (Macmillan, 1952) p.79

98 Ibid

99 Hyde, H.M. The Other Love: A Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain. 2nd ed. (William Heinemann Ltd, 1970) p.218

100 Ibid

101 Jivani, A. It‟s not unusual, p.106 102 The Times, October 10, 1953. p.3

103 News of the World, October 11, 1953. p.3

104 Sussex Daily News, 12 October 1953, p.4

105 Sussex Daily News, 12 October 1953, p.4

106 Evening Argus, 12 October 1953. p.6

107 Robinson, L. Gay Men and the Left in Post-War Britain: How the Personal Got Political. 1st ed. (Manchester University Press, 2007) p.23

108 Croft-Cooke, R. The Verdict of You All,  p.62

109 Ibid, p.68

110 Wildeblood, P. Against the Law, p.185

111 Ibid

112 Croft-Cooke, R. The Verdict of You All, p.29

113 Ibid

114 Ibid, p.7

115 Ibid


I would, first and foremost, like to thank Professor Claire Langhamer for her supervision and for enabling me to pursue my line of research. I shall always be grateful. I would also like to thank Dr. Lucy Robinson for her guidance and inspired research, and Andy Medhurst for his kind support. My thanks go also to Dr. Emma Vickers and Dr. Richard Hornsey for their generous assistance and for their invaluable words concerning their inspirational research. The team in Special Collections at The University of Sussex have provided me with some exceptional material, and my particular thanks go to Jessica Scantlebury from the Mass Observation Archive for her time and assistance with using the National Lesbian and Gay Survey. From The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive, my gratitude goes to the team, and in particular Robert Thompson for his patience and kind assistance. I would also like to thank the staff at the Collindale Archive and the Hall-Carpenter Archive. I kindly express many thanks to the late Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for allowing me such a rare and invaluable opportunity to complete an oral interview with him, for his follow-up correspondence and for his hospitality at Palace House, Beaulieu. I would also like to thank the staff at The National Archives for their assistance and kind consideration, and for assisting in the acceptance of my Freedom of Information request. I would like to thank Michael Whitehead for his support, patience and invaluable friendship. Lastly I would like to thank my wonderful family for their support, particularly Mum and Dad, for whom this work is dedicated.


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