Homosexuality During the First World War
Unsurprisingly, little is written about homosexuality in the armed forces during the Great War; it was illegal and those caught were subject to corporal punishment, so there would have been little reason to shout publicly about liaisons. Most evidence is found among diaries and later autobiographies of those who went on to become prominent writers or artists, such as JR Ackerley, Noël Coward and EM Forster.
The English situation for gay men had been extremely unpleasant even before the outbreak of war. In the wake of Oscar Wilde’s trial (1895) and the emergence of greater sexual freedom, homosexuality was more openly discussed than in the Victorian era, though just as harshly condemned. When war was declared, the social and political response to homosexuality became even more intolerant.