Remembrance Sunday: LGBT+ wreath laid at Cenotaph

Commemoration of LGBT’s who died fighting Nazism & other tyrannies

London, UK – 8 November 2020

Royal Air Force veteran David Bonney and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell laid a rainbow wreath at the Cenotaph today, Remembrance Sunday, 8 November, shortly after the official ceremony, at 1pm.

Plans for a larger ceremony were cancelled due to new lockdown rules.

“Our wreath is in remembrance of LGBT+ military personnel who sacrificed their lives fighting Nazism & other tyrannies. Lest We Forget!” said Mr Tatchell.

David Bonney, who served in the RAF, was the last UK serviceman to be jailed for being gay. He was sentenced to six months in prison in 1993 and a dishonourable discharge, plus the loss of some of his pension entitlement.

Mr Bonney, a former Senior Aircraftman, said:

“It is important to keep laying rainbow wreaths, otherwise the sacrifices of LGBT+ service people in the Second World War and other conflicts will be forgotten.”

See below Mr Bonney’s account of his victimisation by the RAF.

Mr Tatchell added:

“On Remembrance Sunday it is right that we honour all those who fought for freedom, including women, black and LGBT+ military personnel.

“It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 LGBT+ soldiers, sailors and aircrew served during the Second World War in the fight against German and Japanese fascism.

“For decades, the Royal British Legion refused to acknowledge that any LGBT+ people gave their lives to defend democracy. Wreaths in their memory were removed from the Cenotaph and often vandalised. LGBT+ veterans were refused permission to march as a contingent in the Remembrance Day parade.

“In November 1971, gay people were arrested when they laid pink triangle crosses in the Field of Remembrance outside Westminster Abbey. Until 1985, LGBT+ wreaths were banned at the Cenotaph. We had to fight the Royal British Legion and Ministry of Defence to get that ban overturned.

“We also remember the thousands of first-rate LGBT+ military personnel who were witch-hunted out of the armed forces, simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. These personnel lost their job, accommodation, income, pension and friends in the military. We continue the fight to secure them compensation, as Germany has already paid to its dismissed LGBT+ soldiers, sailors and air crew.” said Mr Tatchell.

Mr Bonney spoke out about his experiences in the RAF:

“I led a double life in the RAF. I had too, as it remained illegal in the forces to be gay. But during a search of my room a copy of Gay Times was found. This led to a two-year investigation by the military: bugging my communications, having people follow me, placing officers outside local gay bars to spy on me going in and using local police to interrogate my friends. The RAF investigators created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear. When I did not crack and confess, the RAF resorted to dirty tricks. They gave me short term postings to far flung parts of the UK without giving me a means to get there, so if I failed to turn up I would be registered as ‘absent without leave,’ a disciplinary offence. I endured threats of violence from my fellow servicemen. After almost two years, the abuse got to me and I finally admitted to being gay.

“My court martial took place at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall in October 1993. I was found guilty, dishonourably discharged and sentenced to 6 months in prison, serving one month in solitary confinement.

“It was only after lobbying and an appeal that my dishonourable discharge was annulled and I was given a belated honourable discharge.

 “When I later worked as a nurse, I had to disclose my criminal record and this cast a shadow over my employment opportunities.

“To this day, I am still being punished: the Ministry of Defence refuses to pay my full pension,” said Mr Bonney.