Soldiers in Drag, WWI Style

Short one today. I’m still reading the Weintraub book about the end of the Great War (WWI). An interesting anecdote arose as I was reading this evening. Apparently, days before the armistice was signed, troops began to retreat on the power of rumours and innuendo from other soldiers. One squad found themselves in a practically untouched village.

The squad entered a house to find a room full of beds and a chest of drawers full of women’s things: underwear, dresses, etc. Without hesitation they proceeded to strip down from their Army uniforms, full of lice and insects and stink from the trenches, and proceeded to lay on the beds and pass out immediately. They didn’t care that they were dressed as women.

Homosexuality during the Great War is little understood or known. (See this article from the Guardian reviewing a Forgotten Voices of the Somme, by Joshua Levine). As with Imperial British protocol, buggery, or homosexual sex, was forbidden by law–something which was enforced even more in the military. Another article in Vada Magazine adds detail to the plight of homosexuals during the war.

I am a big fan of Patrick O’Brien and his Aubrey and Maturin series of books. They follow the continuing adventures of two characters in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Era. They frequently mention buggery as a charge against members of the crew and discuss it as a posting offence–essentially worthy of a whipping and possibly a rationing of their rum allowance. Whether this was the actual policy of the military I don’t know, but it makes for an interesting side note.

As a gay man in Trump’s America, I worry that the culture wars will end up with a world far more liberal than the one I live in. It is especially worrisome as Trump and the Republican Congress could easily pass laws threatening workers rights and other hard won civil rights for queer men and women.

But that’s for another discussion.

Photo appears here. Along with the caption that this is apparently Brigham Young’s son in drag. Who knew?


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