Friday, 13 July 2012

437: On Your Guards

Unlike America, England has a slightly different expectations regarding homosexuality and the army. Everyone knows the connections between sailors and sodomy due to the long periods spent with no other company except other equally lonely men. However, the availability of a soldier for a nice night out has a long tradition. Usually not just any soldier, but a guardsman or member of the household cavalry. This is partly for historical and practical reasons as these are branches of the military traditionally attached to the Palace and therefore stationed in London and easily available for a little casual rent.

Private Eye, 11 June 1965
Willie Rushton

Private Eye, 5 January 1968

Previously posted is this 1976 parody of A.A. Milne’s “Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace” by Alan Coren

I can’t help but think that this is prime Osbert Lancaster and Mark Boxer cartoon territory but I haven’t come across any appropriate pieces. However to make up for their absences, here’s a more than relevant entry from the always morally ripe Simon Raven. This excerpt is from his 1960 essay about the different kinds of rentboy to be had in London.


“Boys Will Be Boys: The Male Prostitute in London”
Encounter, November 1960

In my first category come young men of the armed services who are either stationed or on leave in London. Prominent among these are, of course, the members of whatever units of Household Troops are currently serving in the capital, centuries of city life having endowed these regiments with a traditional knowledge of and a notorious capacity for all sexual activities of a venal nature. If a young guardsman wishes to augment his modest pay, and if he has no objection to hiring out his person to this end, then he need only "ask about," as a guardsman whom I shall call Tom once put it to me, and some older man (occasionally a N.C.O.) will tell him which pubs or bars to frequent, or which street corners to wait on, and will sometimes offer to accompany him in order to see fair play.

"I knew all about it happening," said Tom, "but I didn’t mean to go myself, see? Then one week-end I was going home to see my girl, and most of my pay was owed, and on the Friday I reckoned I was at least two quid light on what I needed. So I went to a bloke I knew used to go with queers .... " He was told to try several pubs in Kensington and the West End, and if still unsuccessful at closing time to take up a stance in the region of Grosvenor Gardens. Tom was not to accept less than thirty shillings in any case, he was told, and he must ask for at least three pounds if his client requested and he himself allowed the "taking of a real liberty," by which euphemism one connotes the practice of buggery as opposed to the very much more usual manual or oral caresses. The upshot was Tom returned from his first outing without "a real liberty" having been taken (he was not at all anxious, he informed me, for this to happen) and the better off by some two pounds ten in cash and several sophisticated items of information. His subsequent week-end with his girl was a success, having got off to a round start when he presented her with an unlooked-for pair of stockings which the odd ten shillings of his wages of sin had enabled him to buy.

Thereafter, having discovered so easy a way out of his financial afflictions, Tom found himself "on the streets" with increasing frequency. But, I enquired, did not these expeditions do violence to his proper sexual nature? Apparently not. Tom’s explanation was that he regarded "what happened" as a form of masturbation: he would close his eyes and think about "girls and things" while his partner provided the necessary mechanical stimulus--a service which Tom performed unthinkingly, with an almost automatic movement of the hand, in return. Thus Tom was able to persuade himself that he was not at all "queer" by nature, and that what occurred was of no sexual significance. However, it is evident that a person who is not at least slightly homosexual in taste could never begin to tolerate such a situation; and I strongly suspect that Tom, along with most soldiers who behave like him, has a definite if narrow homosexual streak. He is, in fact, bisexual---a judgment which, in its general implications, is confirmed by some remarks once made to me by a young Lance- Serjeant (also of the Brigade).

"Some of us get quite fond of the blokes we see regularly," he said. "You go to their flats and have some drinks and talk a bit--they’re nice fellows, some of them, and interesting to listen to. And as for the sex bit, well, some of the younger ones aren’t bad looking and I’ve had some real thrills off them in my time .... "

But it would be unjust to burden Her Majesty’s Guard with an unrelieved onus of obloquy. Provincial regiments which from time to time replace Household Troops in the performance of "public duties" in London are quick enough, after a few weeks of sniffing the air, to rival the iniquity of their predecessors. Not all country boys, one must suppose, have the integrity which is popularly premised of them: show them the chance to make a little easy money, and their response is regrettably easy to predict .... I should also remark, as a final comment on H.M. Forces in this connection, that soldiers and sailors, particularly the latter for some reason, who are to be in London on leave often discover from friends the address of a "Club" or "Bar" where they are likely to be picked up by well-to-do homosexuals, and are sometimes told by friends to ring up "So-and-So, who said to send my mates to him. He’s very rich with a smashing flat, and he’ll give you a fair old time if you don’t mind being fiddled with now and again." By this time, however, activities are within spitting distance of being amateur, and we had best proceed to the second category.

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