Obituary: Dudley Cave

ANTI-FASCIST, SOLDIER, prisoner of war, advocate of peace and reconciliation, gay rights pioneer, Dudley Cave was above all a humanitarian.

An early career with Odeon cinemas was interrupted by the Second World War. Cave was initially inclined to register as a conscientious objector, but revelations about the horrors of the Third Reich changed his mind, "I was basically a pacifist, but I thought the Nazi persecution of the Jews made it a just war."

Cave joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, in 1941, aged 20. "Homosexual soldiers were more or less accepted," he said. "There was never any disciplinary action taken against them." Despite gossip that he was a "nancy boy", Cave said the worst prejudice he ever experienced in the Army was being chided for "holding a broom like a woman".

Instead of fighting the Nazis, as he expected, Cave was posted to the Far East. During the fall of Singapore in 1942, he was captured by the Japanese. Marched north in a prisoner-of-war labour detachment, his unit was put to work on the Thai- Burma railway, 10 miles beyond the bridge on the River Kwai. Three-quarters of Cave's comrades in H force perished. He was lucky. After he suffered a bad bout of malaria, the Japanese declared him unproductive and ordered his incarceration in Changi Prison, Singapore.

It was in Changi that Cave began to accept his homosexuality. A British army medical officer gave him a copy of Havelock Ellis's "enlightened, eye-opening" 1920 book Sexual Inversion. It made him feel "much better about being gay".

Changi was, nevertheless, a nightmare of physical deprivation. When liberated in 1945, he was near death from malnutrition, down from 12 stone to less than eight. "If the war had gone on another month," he said, "I don't think I would have survived."

After risking his life to defend what Winston Churchill called the "freedom- loving nations", Cave returned to a country where freedom was still denied to gay people. Not only were homosexual relationships illegal, homophobic discrimination was rife. In 1954, Cave was dismissed as manager of the Majestic Cinema in Wembley after it was discovered he was gay. "They asked me to resign," recalled Cave. "I refused, so they sacked me."

Fortunately, that same year, Cave met the man who became his life partner, Bernard Williams, an RAF veteran and schoolteacher. At the time, Williams was married. As with many gay men then, the marriage was an attempt to overcome his homosexuality. But the wedding "cure" did not work. Williams's wife, June, realised this. She encouraged the relationship with Cave. All three became lifelong friends and ended up living together in a Bloomsbury- style domestic arrangement in Golders Green. Cave and Williams remained side by side as lovers and gay rights champions for 40 years, until Williams's death in 1994.

In 1971, Cave joined the Unitarian Church, attracted to its ideals of freedom, peace and tolerance. He played a key role in securing - during the early 1970s - the ordination of lesbians and gay men, the blessing of same-sex relationships, and the Church's advocacy of homosexual human rights.

When the information and advice service Gay Switchboard was launched in 1974, Cave was one of the original committee members. The first daily helpline run by and for gay people, Switchboard was (and still is) a vital support for lesbians and gays suffering isolation and victimisation. Cave remained a volunteer - answering the phone lines - right up until his death.

Working for Switchboard made Cave aware that bereaved gay partners are often left to grieve alone, without support from their family, and are refused legal recognition as next-of-kin (which can result in eviction from what was their joint home, denial of inheritance, and exclusion from their lover's funeral). To tackle these problems, he set up the Lesbian and Gay Bereavement Project in 1980. As well as counselling the bereaved and giving legal advice, the project successfully encouraged many same- sex couples to make wills to ensure that their relationship and wishes are recognised when they die.

Cave was proud that the Bereavement Project was the first organisation with the word gay in its title to win charitable status. That victory did not come easily. The Charity Commissioners initially demanded that it drop the "offensive" word gay from its title.

From the early 1980s onwards, Cave turned his attention to "unfinished business" arising from his wartime experiences. Furious at the ban on lesbians and gays in the armed forces, he accused military chiefs of cynically enlisting homosexuals when they were needed to defeat Nazism, and then witch- hunting them as soon as the war was over. "They treated gay people like cannon-fodder," he complained.

Despite his own wartime suffering, Cave was a leading figure in the promotion of peace and reconciliation with Japan. This provoked denunciation and rejection by many former comrades. "I will never forget what the Japanese did to us, but the time has come for forgiveness," he wrote to a friend. He was involved with the Peace Temple near the River Kwai, and lectured extensively on the need for rapprochement between former adversaries.

For 20 years, Cave battled against the Royal British Legion's refusal to acknowledge that lesbian and gay people served and died in wars defending Britain. He also challenged the Legion over its opposition to the participation of gay organisations in Remembrance Day ceremonies.

He was incensed in the early 1980s when the Legion's Assistant Secretary, Gp Capt D.J. Mountford, condemned moves to promote the acceptance of gay people as an attempt to "weaken our society", and declared that homosexuals had no right to complain about being ostracised by Legion members.

One of Dudley Cave's final public acts was last November, when he was the keynote speaker at OutRage!'s Queer Remembrance Day vigil at the Cenotaph. After laying a pink triangle wreath honouring gay people who died fighting Nazism and in the concentration camps, Cave deplored the fact that gay ceremonies of remembrance are still - in the late 1990s - being condemned by the British Legion as "distasteful" and "offensive".

Peter Tatchell

Dudley Scott Cave, soldier and gay rights campaigner: born London 19 February 1921; died London 19 May 1999.

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing