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LGBT People of History 67 - Peter Wildeblood
Peter Wildeblood (1923 – 1999) was a pioneer of LGBT rights. He was also a journalist, novelist and playwright.
He was born in Italy and was educated at Radley College and then went on toTrinity College, Oxford. He joined the RAF during WW2 and unfortunately was grounded after a number of crashes. He spent the rest of the war as an RAF meteorologist.
After WW2 he became a Daily Mail journalist, riding to the heights of diplomatic correspondent for the, then, respected newspaper. He began an affair with a young Scottish airman, Edward McNally, at this time.
During the summer of 1953, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu offered Peter a holiday in a beach hut on his estate. They were joined by Edward and Johnny Reynolds, an airman friend of Edward’s. Montagu’s cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers, also joined them for a party in the hut.
At the time the British authorities were conducting a post-war clampdown on ‘immoral behaviour’ and were looking for a high-profile case. McNally’s passionate love letters to Wildeblood were discovered by the RAF and the two airmen were interrogated. Subsequently the two airmen were offered the chance to ‘turn Queen’s evidence’ in the inevitable trial of Montagu, Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers. The three were accused of 'conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons'. During the trial Wildeblood admitted he was homosexual. Each defendant received a custodial sentence. The trial was a media sensation and backfired on the authorities as public sympathy for the defendants was immense.
In the mid-50s after his release from prison, Wildeblood testified before the Wolfenden Committee and the House of Lords who were looking at decriminalising homosexuality. Long years later this finally happened in 1967.
The trial and the events leading up to it were made into a documentary by Channel 4 entitled ‘A Very British Sex Scandal’.
Peter became an advocate of gay rights and for the reform of prisons.
He suffered a stroke in 1994 which left him paralysed and died in 1999.
A true pioneer of gay rights.
Ian and Callum.
With thanks to Wikipedia and Channel 4.
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