youtube

QUEERS: “The Man on the platform” (BBC, 2027). Performed by Ben Whishaw. A gay soldier narrates his tale after coming home from World War I.

2

March 25th 1811: Shelley expelled from Oxford

On this day in 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from the University of Oxford for publishing a pamphlet entitled ‘The Necessity of Atheism’. Shelley is best known as a famous English poet, who was part of a group of fellow prominent writers including his wife Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. As well as being as being an author, Shelley was a radical political activist who advocated non-violent protest. Having begun study at Oxford in 1810, it is often said that he only attended one lecture during his time there. He published several works whilst at university, but it was his atheistic pamphlet which led to his appearance before the College fellows and his eventual expulsion as he refused to deny authorship. ‘The Necessity of Atheism’ argued that people do not choose their beliefs and thus atheists shouldn’t be persecuted. However it is unclear whether Shelley was personally an atheist; he may have instead been an agnostic or a pantheist. Either way, this document is an interesting insight into Shelley’s views and shows how atheism was stigmatised in the early nineteenth century.

“Truth has always been found to promote the best interests of mankind. Every reflecting mind must allow that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity”

7

(he did)

Admiral Horatio Nelson, died at The Battle of Trafalgar 1805. His last words were “Kiss me Hardy”, but many tried to later pass it off as “kismet” to avoid embarrassment.

bbc.com
Forbidden love: The WW2 letters between two men - BBC News
Love letters written during World War Two and discovered in a trunk in Brighton reveal a forbidden relationship between two men.

While on military training during World War Two, Gilbert Bradley was in love. He exchanged hundreds of letters with his sweetheart - who merely signed with the initial “G”. But more than 70 years later, it was discovered that G stood for Gordon, and Gilbert had been in love with a man.

At the time, not only was homosexuality illegal, but those in the armed forces could be shot for having gay sex. The letters, which emerged after Mr Bradley’s death in 2008, are therefore unusual and shed an important light on homosexual relationships during the war. What do we know about this forbidden love affair?

Wednesday January 24th 1939

My darling,

… I lie awake all night waiting for the postman in the early morning, and then when he does not bring anything from you I just exist, a mass of nerves…

All my love forever,

G.

Information gleaned from the letters indicate Mr Bradley was a reluctant soldier. He did not want to be in the Army, and even pretended to have epilepsy to avoid it. His ruse did not work, though, and in 1939 he was stationed at Park Hall Camp in Oswestry, Shropshire, to train as an anti-aircraft gunner.

He was already in love with Gordon Bowsher. The pair had met on a houseboat holiday in Devon in 1938 when Mr Bowsher was in a relationship with Mr Bradley’s nephew. Mr Bowsher was from a well-to-do family. His father ran a shipping company, and the Bowshers also owned tea plantations. When war broke out a year later he trained as an infantryman and was stationed at locations across the country.

February 12 1940, Park Grange

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…

But life as a homosexual in the 1940s was incredibly difficult. Gay activity was a court-martial offence, jail sentences for so-called “gross indecency” were common, and much of society strongly disapproved of same-sex relationships. It was not until the Sexual Offences Act 1967 that consenting men aged 21 and over were legally allowed to have gay relationships - and being openly gay in the armed services was not allowed until 2000.

The letters, which emerged after Mr Bradley’s death in 2008, are rare because most homosexual couples would get rid of anything so incriminating, says gay rights activist Peter Roscoe. In one letter Mr Bowsher urges 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.”

Mr Roscoe says the letters are inspiring in their positivity. “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.”

February 1st, 1941 K . C. Gloucester Regiment, Priors Road, Cheltenham

My darling boy,

For years I had it drummed into me that no love could last for life…

I want you darling seriously to delve into your own mind, and to look for once in to the future.

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.

Your own G.

But was this a love story with a happy ending?

Probably not. At one point, Mr Bradley was sent to Scotland on a mission to defend the Forth Bridge. He met and fell in love with two other men. Rather surprisingly, he wrote and told Mr Bowsher all about his romances north of the border. Perhaps even more surprisingly, Mr Bowsher took it all in his stride, writing that he “understood why they fell in love with you. After all, so did I”.

Although the couple wrote throughout the war, the letters stopped in 1945.

However, both went on to enjoy interesting lives.Mr Bowsher moved to California and became a well-known horse trainer. In a strange twist, he employed Sirhan Sirhan, who would go on to be convicted of assassinating Robert Kennedy. Mr Bradley was briefly entangled with the MP Sir Paul Latham, who was imprisoned in 1941 following a court martial for “improper conduct” with three gunners and a civilian. Sir Paul was exposed after some “indiscreet letters” were discovered.Mr Bradley moved to Brighton and died in 2008. A house clearance company found the letters and sold them to a dealer specialising in military mail.

The letters were finally bought by Oswestry Town Museum, when curator Mark Hignett was searching on eBay for items connected with the town. He bought just three at first, and says the content led him to believe a fond girlfriend or fiancé was the sender. There were queries about bed sheets, living conditions - and their dreams for their future life together. When he spotted there were more for sale, he snapped them up too - and on transcribing the letters for a display in the museum, Mr Hignett and his colleagues discovered the truth. The “girlfriend” was a boyfriend.

The revelation piqued Mr Hignett’s interest - he describes his experience as being similar to reading a book and finding the last page ripped out: “I just had to keep buying the letters to find out what happened next.” Although he’s spent “thousands of pounds” on the collection of more than 600 letters, he believes in terms of historical worth the correspondence is “invaluable”. “Such letters are extremely rare because they were incriminating - gay men faced years in prison with or without hard labour,” he says. “There was even the possibility that gay soldiers could have been shot.”

Work on a book is already under way at the museum, where the letters will also go on display. Perhaps most poignantly, one of the letters contains the lines: “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.”

2

March 24th 1944: The ‘Great Escape’

On this day in 1944, a group of Allied prisoners of war staged a daring escape attempt from the German prisoner of war camp at Stalag Luft III. This camp, located in what is now Poland, held captured Allied pilots mostly from Britain and the United States. In 1943, an Escape Committee under the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell of the RAF, supervised prisoners surreptitiously digging three 30 foot tunnels out of the camp, which they nicknamed ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’. The tunnels led to woods beyond the camp and were remarkably sophisticated - lined with wood, and equipped with rudimentary ventilation and electric lighting. The successful construction of the tunnels was particularly impressive as the Stalag Luft III camp was designed to make it extremely difficult to tunnel out as the barracks were raised and the area had a sandy subsoil. ‘Tom’ was discovered by the Germans in September 1943, and ‘Dick’ was abandoned to be used as a dirt depository, leaving ‘Harry’ as the prisoners’ only hope. By the time of the escape, American prisoners who had assisted in tunneling had been relocated to a different compound, making the escapeees mostly British and Commonwealth citizens. 200 airmen had planned to make their escape through the ‘Harry’ tunnel, but on the night of March 24th 1944, only 76 managed to escape the camp before they were discovered by the guards. However, only three of the escapees - Norwegians Per Bergsland and Jens Müller and Dutchman Bram van der Stok - found their freedom. The remaining 73 were recaptured, and 50 of them, including Bushell, were executed by the Gestapo on Adolf Hitler’s orders, while the rest were sent to other camps. While the escape was generally a failure, it helped boost morale among prisoners of war, and has become enshrined in popular memory due to its fictionalised depiction in the 1963 film The Great Escape.

“Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick, and Harry. One will succeed!”
- Roger Bushell

2

A 22-year-old Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in chalk by Hungarian artist, Charles Brocky, 1841. Commissioned that same year after Victoria saw his portrait of Georgiana Liddell, one of her maid’s of honour, and fell in love with his work. This romantic pair of portraits resides today in the Queen’s sitting room at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

me: I must understand the medieval History of England.

*some books and documentaries later*

me: …plenty of Kings indeed…

me: *a bit doubtful* So let’s systematize:

me: *quite doubtful and sweating* Just need to add the respective names and dates and it will be great…

Peveril Castle
Derbyshire, England by Brownie Bear

Build shortly after the Norman Conquest (1066-1072 CE), Peveril Castle stands out as one of the few Norman castles to be built originally in stone rather than timber. The castle fell into the hands of the crown following the civil war known as The Anarchy (1135-1153). It remained more-or-less a royal property until its decline in the 15th century. 

2

February 8th 1855: ‘Devil’s Footprints’ appear

On this day in 1855, heavy snowfall hit southern Devon in the United Kingdom. The next morning locals awoke to find a mysterious set of footprints in the snow. The footprints were in single file in the shape of cloven hooves, and supposedly stretched for hundreds of miles, going through walls, houses and over water and rooftops. The single file footprints suggested a creature on two legs rather than four, and the cloven shape fitted with contemporary imagery of the Devil. Satan is traditionally pictured with cloven hooves, as its image was adapted from a pagan deity, and the wings represent Lucifer’s nature as a fallen angel. There have been numerous theories put forward beyond the supernatural, from escaped kangaroos, a hot air balloon dangling a rope, to roaming badgers. It is unlikely the footprints were faked, though their appearance did certainly benefit the Devon clergy as the churches were filled with people terrified by the Devil. The mystery remains unsolved to this day, but modern thinkers tend to reject the notion that the Devil traversed across nineteenth century Devon.

2

March 22nd 1963: ‘Please Please Me’ released

On this day in 1963, the first album by the Beatles, ‘Please Please Me’, was released in the UK by Parlophone Records. The Beatles formed in Liverpool, and made their musical start by performing concerts in Liverpool’s Cavern Club and playing in Hamburg, Germany. The first singles from their debut album, ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me’ had been very successful, with the latter topping the charts in the United Kingdom. The success of their debut album was followed up with their second UK album ‘With the Beatles’ in November 1963. The Beatles went on to become one of the most famous music groups of their day, and its members - John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr - became international icons. The band’s influence continued long after their break up in 1970 and endures to this day.

6

history edit:

 Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland; Empress Consort of Hanover

“Queen Charlotte made many contributions to Britain as it is today, though the evidence is not obvious or well publicized. Her African bloodline in the British royal family is not common knowledge. Portraits of the Queen had been reduced to fiction of the Black Magi, until two art historians suggested that the definite African features of the paintings derived from actual subjects, not the minds of painters.”