“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.”
A tender series of historical love letters sent between two gay British servicemen during World War 2 have been found and shown by Oswestry Town Museum.
Written between infantry Gordon Bowsher and gunner Gilbert Bradley, who was training at Park Hall Camp in Shropshire at the time of receipt, the letters reveal a secret and heart-endearing companionship between the two servicemen. Signed off with a single ‘G’, it was assumed the recipient was a girlfriend, not a distant lover.
Sent in a time where being caught having gay sex in the military could lead to being shot, the hidden memos reveal the duo pining for one another, with one claiming that “there is nothing more than I desire in life but to have you with me constantly,” referring to ‘G’ as “my own darling boy.”
The letters remained a hidden and trapped in time until Gilbert’s death in 2008, when house clearers sold them to a dealer. The letters have now been sold to Oswestry Town Museum to celebrate the rich and diverse history the town has. The letters – 600 in total – have been described as incredibly rare by historians, for historical gay couples who destroy any evidence of their homosexual lovers in fear of being caught.
“I want you darling seriously to delve into your own mind, and to look for once in to the future,” one reads. “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.”
“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,” a letter read.
It was widely believed that homosexuality in the armed forces would somehow destroy morale between personnel. Another wartime myth concerned the inability of homosexuals to show bravery under fire. Dudley Cave, who joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1941, found that comrades would protest rumours of his sexuality for being “terribly brave in action”.
This, of course, did not mean being a gay serviceman did not exist throughout the war. Iconic queer British writer Quentin Crisp was told he was not allowed to sign-up to the army during the war due to his “sexual perversion”, but openly wrote about being flooded with sexual encounters with gay American servicemen in London in his autobiography The Naked Civil Servant.
Unfortunately, it is believed the couple were not reunited after the war and moved on to live separate lives. Work on a book is already under way at the museum, where the letters will also go on display.