Love letters written during World War II were rediscovered in 2008, and they were exchanged by two soldiers in Britain.
During his military training, Gilbert Bradley was in love and exchanged countless letters with his darling – who is known as the initial “G.” Fast forward to 70 years later, when it was discovered that G stands for Gordon, and that Gilbert’s sweetheart was in fact, a man.
During this era, being a homosexual was illegal and getting caught performing gay sex in the armed forces could get you shot.
These letters of Bradley, which was found after his death in 2008 shed a very unexpected and important light on the reality of homosexual relationships amongst soldiers during the war.
“Most gay stories from that era tend to be sad ones that ended in prosecution, or ended in death, or ended in suicide, and here we’ve got two guys that actually went through it without that happening to them,” said Mark Hignett, Oswestry Town Museum curator.
Information gotten from past memorabilia showed that Bradley did not want to be a soldier, and in fact, even pretended to have an epileptic episode to get out of it. When his ruse didn’t prove to be successful, he got stationed at Park Hall Camp in Oswestry, Shropshire, and started his training as an anti-aircraft gunner.
Bradley and Gordon Bowsher met on a houseboat holiday in Devon in 1938 while Bowsher was romantically linked to Bradley’s nephew at that time. Bowsher was from an upper class family with the father owning a shipping company and tea plantations.
Bowsher, on the other hand, was stationed in another location across the country and training as an infantry man.
“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…”
Gordon Bowsher, February 12 1940, Park Grange
Living as a homosexual in the 40’s was almost impossible as gay activity was considered a court-martial offense. Being sent to jail for so-called “gross indecency” was very common during these years because the majority of society was strongly against same-sex relationships.
Things continued on like this until the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 came out which consented men aged 21 and above to legally have gay relationships. Being openly gay within the armed services was only allowed in the year 2000.
Gay rights activist, Peter Roscoe said these letters between two men are rare because homosexual couples 80 years ago would’ve gotten rid of any proof that could incriminate them, that’s why these letters are inspiring in their positivity. In one letter that had been found, Bowsher tells 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.”
“There is a gay history and it isn’t always negative and tearful,” he says. “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,” says Roscoe.
Although the letters between the two men stopped in 1945, their love story will story will endure forever, as they hoped it would.
“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 were.”Gordon Bowsher
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