Navy ready for battle against homosexuals

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The Independent Online
Service chiefs are planning a major battle to keep gays out of the armed forces, a leaked letter between two leading Navy figures reveals.

The letter from the Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet, Admiral Sir Hugo White, to the First Sea Lord, Sir Jock Slater, was leaked to the gay rights group Stonewall. He says: "As in all battles timing is everything, and I know that Chiefs of Staff not only intend but are already vigorously defending the status quo, and are determined to act in the most effective way at the optimum moment to do so. I would ask you to discourage any self-defeatist view that we shall inevitably lose our case."

The letter, written before the Ministry of Defence announced it was reviewing the policy, reveals a belief among the senior figures that homophobia is deeply entrenched at all levels. His letter gives the results of a survey of attitudes among Navy staff down to mess-deck level, which has been "far reaching and conducted with considerable sensitivity".

Sir Hugo, 56, who has left the Royal Navy to become Governor of Gibraltar, pleads with his superior against carrying out another survey for ministers because such surveys have "an unsettling effect" of making people think the Navy is moving towards a more tolerant attitude. Comparisons with other countries' experiences were widely seen as fallacious because "we have unique cultural traditions and tend to be sexually more conservative than many other countries".

There was general concern that "the image of Servicemen would degrade" if gays were allowed to serve.

"We found some, but not many, liberal-minded individuals among mainly junior officers and men who said they would not object to relaxation in principle, but when asked whether they would object to sharing bunk spaces, crowded messdecks, showers and undressing in close proximity to homosexuals they admitted they would not like it. The majority declared revulsion at the prospect."

He adds: "The threat of sexual corruption among the sexually immature within the Fleet would be real, and a deterrent to potential recruits and their parents. More broadly, people in the Fleet do not see why it should be used for what they perceive to be social experimentation as a result of vociferous lobbying by a minority group."