Proud to Serve

sailor in uniform

Martyn Hammond when he joined the Navy.
He was later discharged as a result of his sexuality.

In 1999 the European Court of Human Rights overturned the ban of lesbians and gays serving in the armed forces. The European judges declared unanimously that such a bar on entry into the army, navy and air force was illegal under the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards an individual’s right to privacy.

Prior to this the Ministry of Defence (MOD) policy was to continue a long standing ban on homosexuals joining any of the Armed Forces. Up until that time about 60 homosexual service personnel were forced to leave the service every year.
The position of the MoD had been that gays in the military were bad for morale and vulnerable to blackmail from foreign intelligence agencies. This made life extremely difficult for lesbians and gays who had to hide their sexuality and risked being court martialled, jailed and losing their careers.
Today the Air Force and the Navy have attained prestigious recognition by Stonewall as a Top 100 employer for Lesbian, Gay Men and Bisexual people.

“There was a little detachment from the Military Regulation Branch called the SIB (Special Investigations Bureau) and they use to sneak around to see if they could catch anybody out.”

“I got arrested and taken down to Collingwood detention block and put in a cell. And that’s when the Mr. Nice and the Mr. Nasty started and that was SIB.”

“So I was interviewed for a couple of hours, given a break, couple of hours, given a break and then they’d lock me in a cell again and then that evening I was moved to detention quarters at HMS Nelson which was the most disgusting, depressing, vile place you could ever want to go, I tell you what I’ve never felt so scared I suppose for a better word of it thinking this is what they can do to somebody, for being what Gay?”

Paul Mann Royal Marine

Paul Mann Royal Marine, 1950’s.

“As a Corporal, if you knew someone was gay or lesbian, you, it was your duty to report it to the top so I never, I just closed my eyes to it, because I just didn’t feel it was my duty to do that.”

“Many lesbians and gays had horrible experiences when their sexuality was brought to the attention of the military authorities.”

“Now people in the Navy can actually be gay and they can relax and be free and I so envy them, I am so glad that they can have that as well.”

Paul Mann in army uniform 1950's

Paul Mann in uniform, author of the book ‘The Queer Commando’

Royal Navy marching in uniform London Gay Pride 2008

London Pride March, July 5, 2008. Photographer Richard Tanswell.

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