Recently declassified documents revealed that commanders in the Women's Royal Air Force were advised to keep an eye on airwomen who showed an interest in cricket or hockey —or even simply spent a lot of time on the phone with other women— as these are completely scientific signs that they are gay, gay, gay:
Even as late as the 1990s, the WRAF kept an ‘observation list' of females suspected of having lesbian tendencies.
Targets were placed under covert surveillance, had their kit searched and correspondence intercepted.
Details of the various ways officers attempted to remove lesbians (who were "considered mentally ill and told to undergo psychological treatment") from the armed forces are now contained within the pages at the London National Archives:
A 1950s briefing paper for officers, entitled ‘A Special Problem', stated: ‘No one can really help another person to steer clear of the dangers of homosexuality unless she herself believes it morally wrong and has a definite notion why.
‘For the unfortunate persons suffering from deeper abnormality psychological treatment is very often helpful.
‘But remember it can only be useful if the patient has sufficient insight to wish to be cured.
‘For the fortunately rare cases of perverted practice or attempted corruption of other women by talk or example, discharge from the service would be the only course.'
Officers were warned to keep a sharp eye out for recruits with ‘very masculine character' who ‘tend to become a focus of undesirable attention from other women'. A memo said: ‘It is undoubtedly better that women of this type should not be recruited into a service.'
The file in which the documents are held at London's National Archives has the title ‘Perverts' written in pencil.
Even the daughter of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle issued a memo in 1960, warning of "familiarity amongst the cricket and hockey teams" and "constant telephone call making and persistent letter writing" to female comrades. However, Jean Conan Doyle said that women who shared a bed were not necessarily lesbians, as "airwomen have been known to do this for the sake of warmth in very cold weather and in some strata of society it is a common occurrence for sisters and girl friends to share a bed." Still, she advised it must "be stopped immediately."
Which is fair. Even if they're not lesbians, nothing is quite as gay as two women warming up when it's cold outside. In fact, let's get these heat-seeking women to a therapist "at once":
Women stationed overseas who alerted suspicions were sent home immediately for treatment or dismissal, according to a minute from 1967.
‘A member of the WRAF abroad who seeks advice from the station medical officer for an emotional or other problem associated with homosexual practices is to be referred to the command neuropsychiatrist.
‘All WRAF personnel who admit to these homosexual practices are to be repatriated at once.'
Also according to these documents, there was an awesome lesbian bar nearby that I will choose to imagine as an all-girl version of the swing dancing scene in A League Of Their Own:
Top brass were so concerned about the ‘undesirable' influence of a cafe known as ‘The Shack' close to a WRAF base in Germany that servicewomen were barred from it.
Thirteen women were dismissed for homosexuality in 1955. In 1970, the figure was 60.
A former WRAF recruit, who was based in Lancashire in the 1960s, recalled the ‘shocking' intensity of investigations into suspected lesbians.
She said: ‘The police arrived unannounced and commandeered rooms from which to spy on suspects. Few people knew what was going on and if they asked they were told something evil was being sorted out.'