Queen and country

Same-sex desire in the British Armed Forces, 1939–45

Emma Vickers
Search for other papers by Emma Vickers in
Current site
Google Scholar

This book takes a contextual, time-specific approach to the study of same-sex desire in the British armed forces. Such an approach is now considered to be de rigueur for the historian of sexuality. The book first examines the medical, legal and cultural understandings of same-sex activity and identity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It then focuses on the life of service personnel; how they lived, loved and survived within the armed forces. Among other themes, the book examines the importance of homosociability and the mechanics of passing. It explores the experiences of personnel during moments when the veil could be lifted, whether on leave, on stage, away from authority, in foreign climes or simply away from the strictures of familial authority. The book further interrogates how men and women deemed to desire members of the same sex were conceptualised and treated by the armed forces. It uses court-martial records, court transcripts, official papers and personal testimony to map out how those caught out by the system were understood and treated. Finally, the book provides a clearer picture of how self-identified queer personnel and those who engaged in homosex experienced the Second World War when on duty, at play and when experiencing the sharp end of military law.

Abstract only
Log-in for full text


‘Emma Vickers has produced a rich and humane study of World War Two service personnel which significantly expands our understanding of “gay” people and the reaction of “ordinary people” to them before gay lib in the 1970s.'
Brian Dempsey
James Morgan Brown Review
October 2016

  • Collapse
  • Expand

    • Full book download (PDF with hyperlinks)
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 782 132 13
Full Text Views 659 71 20
PDF Downloads 1106 230 21