WWI: Detailed study of soldiers’ sexual punishment


Frederick Lea Hardy died fighting for Canada at Vimy Ridge during World War I. Not long before being killed in action, the teenager was sentenced to prison with hard labor as a military punishment for his sexual behavior.

Hardy was one of at least 19 members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force engaged in consensual relationships who were arrested and tried for what was later called gross indecent conduct.

The painful, often bleak stories of these men were discovered by Sarah Worthman doing research at Veterans Affairs Canada. Her findings were just published under the auspices of the LGBT Purge Fund, a nonprofit created through class-action settlement.

The Ottawa settlement was a key element of the sweeping federal apology issued in November 2017 for decades of discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay and lesbian community. masculinity, bisexuality and transgenderism.

When Worthman’s Veterans contract ends in May 2022, she still hasn’t finished digging into the World War I era.

“And I know I owe it to my community to do whatever I can to get these stories out,” she said in an interview. “And so I approached the Purge Foundation with a project proposal.”

Worthman is currently a graduate student and freelance researcher, and executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Queer Research Initiative.

Her efforts to detail gross indecent cases involved sifting through about 200 court records.

“The files, the way they are organized, are a complete mess,” she said. “There are many long hours just sitting in my small office, staring at handwritten cursive and trying to make sense of it.”

Worthman chose to use the term exotic throughout his research to match recent movements to reclaim the term, which has been used as a slang term, as it includes gender sex and sex. Additionally, terms like gay, bisexual, transgender, and even homosexual are relatively modern identifiers, she noted.

An oddball, Worthman was moved to tears as she read through the files, realizing what members of her community had gone through a century ago. “Part of the process is really coming to terms with that and working through those feelings.”

Hardy grew up in Brandon, Man., and dropped out of school to help with the family farm. When war broke out in Europe in 1915, he went abroad at the age of 16 with the 8th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

While serving as a private in Abele, Belgium, in July 1916, Hardy was arrested for “violent indecent conduct with another man”, Worthman research, published in lgbtpurgefund. com, said.

“Hardy’s battalion has just returned from the front lines from a particularly intense battle and the soldiers are enjoying a well-deserved respite,” the report said. “Hardy and another soldier went to a local facility for a few drinks.”

They wandered from town on a summer stroll to a nearby field.

“It was in that grassland that they were discovered together by a group of senior officers who were on a nearby farm. Both soldiers were arrested and the next morning they were tried by a military court. “

Five captains who witnessed the event testified against Hardy, and graphic descriptions of the men’s sexual encounters were read aloud in court.

Worthman writes: “One can only imagine the humiliation Frederick must have felt in that moment. “He was a farm boy from rural Manitoba who was forced to represent himself and was rejected before a jury of his peers.”

Hardy was found guilty by a panel of military superiors and sentenced to 18 months of hard labor in prison.

He served eight months in the harsh HM Winchester prison, one of a number of prisons in the UK used to hold military members.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force was primarily based in southern England, so most convicted Canadian soldiers were sent to prisons in that area so they could be mobilized quickly if needed in the trenches.

Indeed, due to heavy losses at Vimy Ridge, Hardy was recalled to the front, to fight in the Canadian assault at Hill 70.

He was killed in battle on August 15, 1917. His body was never found.

This makes him the only known gay soldier to be memorialized at the Vimy Memorial.

“Frederick Hardy gave his life fighting for a country that had imprisoned him and spent the last months of his short life tortured for sex in the lonely rooms of the prison. Winchester.”

For many soldiers, war is their first encounter with other homosexuals, and they have little chance of finding out their gender before being forced to cover it up with lies. patched, inconsistent, Worthman noted.

In total, at least 35 men in the CEF were tried for indecent conduct, including 19 for homosexual relations.

She discovered that three men had been fired, or “collected” during the war because of their sexual orientation. “Cashier in this context refers to the military’s longstanding tradition of firing officers who are seen as ‘behaving in a scandalous manner.”‘

During the First World War, this ceremony was performed in front of other officers in the regiment and involved the destruction of status symbols such as shoulder bridges, insignia, and badges to emphasize that they were not can never serve under the Crown again. “This not only destroys an officer’s social status but also prevents them from receiving a military pension.”

The study said Lieutenant Richmond Earl Lyon, who served three years of hard labor in Winchester prison, was given the cash soon after his military trial.

Cashiers were also often featured extensively in trench newspapers, stemming from the notion of overt military discipline as a deterrent to misconduct. “In this case, it was used as a threat to scare gay people into the closet.”

Until recently, little was known about these military courts, the study said, and made no mention of the “terrible confinement” faced by gay men during the war. “As a result, there has never been an apology for what these men went through in prison nor has there been any attempt to remember them.”

Worthman says people can honor men by reading about their stories, and she wants to see them commemorated through a plaque or laying a wreath.

“The story of these men and their persecution should not be seen as a shameful isolated incident in Canadian history but rather as an example of longstanding policies and principles that have evolved into the oppression that gay people still face in Canada today,” she wrote.

Under policies adopted in the 1950s and continued into the early 90s, federal agencies investigated, sanctioned, and sometimes fired lesbian and gay members of the Armed Forces. Canadian sites, RCMP and public services as they are deemed inappropriate.

Many people who kept their jobs were demoted or not promoted or had their security clearances revoked.

The class-action settlement agreement includes millions of dollars for mediation and remembrance measures, including a national monument to be built in Ottawa and declassification of archives documenting the dark chapter. .

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 25, 2023.

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