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Love In The Time Of War

My own darling boy,

There is nothing more that I desire in life but to have you with me constantly…

…I can see, or I imagine I can see, what your mother and father’s reaction would be… the rest of the world have no conception of what our love is – they do not know that it is love…

Last year, something interesting came to light revolving around the Second World War. Love letters to a Mr Gilbert Bradley written during the World War II signed with only the letter G. When Mr Mark Hignett found a few of these letters in an online auction, he assumed that anyone would send letters to lovers during the war. But upon further reading them, he and his colleagues discovered that this ‘G’ was, in fact, a man named Gordan Bowsher.

While love letters during the war are not uncommon, those between the queer people are. This is perhaps the first case of letters exchanged between two gay men during the war. They had met in 1938, just before the war started in a houseboat holiday. They exchanged over 600 letters during the war but stopped in 1945. It seems that Mr Bradley fell in love with other men during the times of these letters and he told all about it to Mr Bowsher to which Mr Bowsher replied ‘understood why they fell in love with you. After all, so did I.’

My darling,

…I lie awake all night waiting for the postman in the early morning, and then when he does not bring anything from you I just exist, a mass of nerves…

All my love forever,


After the war ended, the letters stopped. Both men went on to live their own lives. Mr Bowsher moved to California and became a successful horse trainer. While Mr Bradley moved to Brighton, where he died in 2008. This is when these letters were found, despite Mr Bowsher writing

‘do one thing for me in deadly seriousness. I want all my letters destroyed. Please darling do this for me. Till then and forever I worship you’

Mr Hignett, the curator of Oswestry Town Museum, described these letters as invaluable, saying that the experience was like ‘reading a book and finding the last pages were ripped out’. Others have also stated that this kind of LGBT+ history, brimmed with such love and positivity is almost non-existent during the times when being queer was a crime.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.”

Stories of queer couples during the war are rare. It was a taboo back then, punishable by death. Soldiers could be court marshalled. Considering these things, we have come a long way. And yet we still have a long way to go. As of last year, 25 countries recognize same-sex marriage, while 73 countries still have laws criminalizing same-sex marriage, India being one of them. But recently with the declaration of sexual orientation a fundamental right, things have started to look hopeful again. Here’s to hoping that those enlightened times would come to our country too, where people would not have to hide for who they are!


Keep Hoping,

Surbhi Mishra

#war #letters #queer #love #gay #soldiers #worldwar2 #GordanBowsher

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