These newly discovered love letters between two gay World War II soldiers tell a heartwarming story of forbidden love
A small museum owner in Shropshire, England, has uncovered a secret gay romance between two soldiers, and it’s like something out of a movie.
The forbidden romance came to light after Mark Hignett, from Oswestry, Shropshire, started buying up the letters on eBay. Hignett, who is a collector of war memorabilia for his small wartime museum, said that he discovered the relationship after he began transcribing the letters.
While initially he only bought three letters to put on display, the 62-year-old said that once he’d begun to unearth the story behind the letters, he slowly spent £1,000 ($1242) purchasing the rest of the 300-strong collection.
The letters detail the romance between World War II soldier Gilbert Bradley and someone lovingly called “G.” As Hignett read more and more of the letters, he deduced that Gilbert and G were, in fact, two men, the latter being Gordon Bowsher.
The letters only saw the light of day after Gilbert’s death in 2008 aged 92 (it’s thought that Gordon died about 15 years earlier), after they were discovered by a house clearance company and sold to a dealer specialising in military mail.
“The value of these letters lies in the fact most love letters from homosexuals at the time were burned, because if they were found, they would have been used as evidence,” Hignett said to metro.co.uk about the discovery. “The story really has a life of its own; it’s a fantastic love story to rival the Titanic.”
As Attitude reports, Gilbert and Gordon met on a houseboat in 1938. At the time, homosexuality was illegal, and up until 1944 the pair wrote 300 letters to each other, keeping their romance a secret from everyone. It seems that Gordon was already in a relationship with Gilbert’s nephew, but the pair soon embarked on their own love affair.
As BBC News notes, what’s striking about the letters is their positive representation of gay relationships during the war, something Gay rights activist Peter Roscoe said is unusual.
“There is a gay history and it isn’t always negative and tearful,” he said. “So many stories are about arrests – Oscar Wilde, Reading Gaol and all those awful, awful stories. But despite all the awful circumstances, gay men and lesbians managed to rise above it all and have fascinating and good lives.”
Sadly, it appears that Gilbert and Gordon didn’t spend the rest of their lives together.
In fact, it seems that after Gilbert was stationed in Scotland, he became embroiled in various love affairs with other men, something he informed his lover of, with Gordon saying that he “understood why they fell in love with you. After all, so did I.”
Gordon later moved to California where he became a horse trainer, while Gilbert became briefly involved with a British politician, and later moved to the coast before passing away in 2008.
Today, now that he has transcribed the letters, Mark Hignett plans to create a book of the letters at his museum in Shropshire, the Oswestry Town Museum, where the letters are also being exhibited. In fact, it’s something that both Gilbert and Gordon joked about.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time,” one of the letters reads. “Then all the world could see how in love we are.”
It seems that after 70 years, the couple are finally getting their wish.
Now we just need to get someone to turn this into the greatest movie ever!