peter wildeblood

People in History: Peter Wildeblood

peter wildeblood

Peter Wildeblood. Photo curtesy The Lotte Meitner-Graf Archive

Peter Wildeblood was born in Italy in 1923, the only child of Henry Wildeblood, a retired engineer from the Indian Public Works Department, and his second wife Winifred, daughter of an Argentinian sheep rancher. (He had older brothers from his father’s first marriage, but as they were already grown with families of their own when Peter was born, he was raised as an only child.) His father was sixty at the time of Peter’s birth, a circumstance which in later life he wondered was responsible for his sexuality.

Wildeblood was raised and educated in England from the age of three. He attended boarding school from seven, and at thirteen won a scholarship to Radley College, a public school near Oxford. From Radley he won a scholarship to Trinity College, Oxford, although he was forced to drop out after ten days because of ill health. It being then 1941, shortly thereafter he enlisted with the RAF and trained as a pilot in Southern Rhodesia (a British colony at the time; now Zimbabwe), but after a succession of crashes he was grounded and retrained as a meteorologist. He remained in Rhodesia for the duration of the war, where he had a number of sexual experiences with women, which only served to confirm his suspicion that he was homosexual. When he returned to Oxford after the war, he spent many of his weekends in London, where he moved in almost exclusively queer circles. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in Biography, Queer Blogging

The History of Homosexuality: The Wolfenden Report

Wikimedia Commons

In 1954, following the high-profile convictions of Lord Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers, and Peter Wildeblood for homosexual crimes under the infamous 1885 Labouchere Amendment, and more significantly the turn of public opinion against the prosecutors of that case, the Home Secretary ordered that a committee which had been set up in order to look into the matter of prostitution also consider the criminality of homosexuality.

The committee comprised three women and twelve men, chaired by Lord Wolfenden, for whom the report was named. The committee members came from legal, medical, educational, and religious backgrounds, although despite this and the subjects they had been charged with investigating, they were surprisingly coy — Wolfenden suggested at an early meeting that they refer to homosexuals as Huntleys and prostitutes as Palmers (after the biscuit manufacturer, Huntley & Palmers) in order to protect the delicate sensibilities of the ladies in the room. A suggestion which the ladies promptly rejected. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in History, Queer Blogging

The History of Homosexuality: The Gay Pogrom

London1950s

London in the 1950s. Wikimedia Commons

The 1950s was a dark decade for queer Englishmen. Between 1945 and 1955, arrests for “gross indecency” soared to over 2,500 a year, with an average of 1,000 men being incarcerated annually. It was a marked increase, seen by many as a targeted persecution, and became known as the “gay pogrom.” Those who believe that narrative trace the cause to the huge number of servicemen, freshly discharged from the war with nowhere to go, unable to find work. The big cities, and especially London, teemed with them. England was proud of its returned heroes, but didn’t know what to do with them and worried that, left without a purpose, they would fall into corruption and vice. The pogrom was, in the eyes of many, a desperate battle to preserve the innocence of men freshly returned from war. To compound matters, the Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, had promised “a new drive against male vice” that would “rid England of this plague.” Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in History, Queer Blogging