Veterans from the East Midlands have joined the Royal British Legion’s first LGBTQ plus branch. It supports ex-service personnel who’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
It’s nearly 20 years since the armed forces lifted the ban on gay people serving in the military.
But for anyone coming to terms with their sexuality before that time, a career in the armed forces could be fraught with difficulty.
Chris Voce from Nottingham joined the Royal Navy when he was 17. It was 1974. He had girlfriends initially, and didn’t think of himself as gay.
Six years later he was questioned by the special investigation branch while he was serving on HMS Excellence.
His crime? He’d written a love letter – to a man.
After this he was sent on leave and returned to his mothers house – telling no one what had happened. Then he got a phone call from the Navy telling him to return immediately to HMS Nelson.
Chris was sent to detention quarters and was charged with nine offences, for being a gay man.
Homosexuality had been decriminalised in 1967, but it was still illegal to be gay and serve in the armed forces at that time.
Chris was sentenced to sixty days military detention and formally discharged from the Navy. He was 24.
The ban on gay men and women serving in the armed forces was lifted in 1999.
This year the Royal British Legion have opened a new branch for LGBTQ + members. Chris is going to join. He says he’s not bitter, and he wants to reconnect with this naval past.