Earlier this week, author and friend, the lovely Charlie Cochrane wrote on her Live Journal page that she had volunteered to ‘adopt’ a war grave in her local church yard. By ‘adopt’ I believe it means to keep the grave tidy, clear away litter and weed the flower beds etc.
The grave they originally wanted (a WW1 grave) was already taken, so they opted for another commemorating a soldier from the Tank Regiment.
The soldiers name was Billy Clegg-Hill and Charlie decided to do some research to learn more about him. What she found was sad and quite horrifying. She learned that Billy, who was a sergeant in his regiment and fought for his country, was arrested in a police swoop on gay men, in Southampton in 1962. He was tried, found guilty of homosexuality and given three years probation on condition that he attend a military psychiatric hospital. He did so…and three days later Billy, aged 29 was dead.
Billy was made to undergo Aversion Therapy to cure him of his homosexuality.
It emerged the treatment, at the Netley military hospital in Hampshire, consisted of showing Mr Clegg-Hill pictures of naked men and then injecting him with the vomit-inducing drug apomorphine.
“The idea was to make him associate naked men with being sick. It was crude and totally ineffective,” said Ms Braithwaite. ( Billy’s sister)
“Unfortunately, the doctors neglected to give him any fluids, and he died of a stroke brought on by dehydration.” (From the BBC News Channel)
So very sad, and what a terrible way to treat someone who, risking life and limb, had fought for his country. One remembers poor Alan Turing the brilliant mathematician and computer scientist, who was made to undergo chemical castration because of his sexuality, and who committed suicide in 1952.
But, to get back to Charlie and the grave of Sergeant Clegg-Hill. Charlie is a writer of M/M romances, mysteries and fantasies, and the fabulous Cambridge Fellows Mystery Series featuring lovers and amateur sleuths, Jonty & Orlando. When she discovered the tragic circumstances of Billy’s death, she was naturally astounded at this remarkable coincidence. And who wouldn’t be? That she, a writer of books and stories featuring gay men should now be tending the grave of a gay man who had died such a cruel and horrible death.
It is remarkable, and it is so very fitting that Billy’s grave should be tended and cared for by someone as caring and compassionate as Charlie. As Charlie said herself, there are many people who would not want to touch that grave with a barge pole. But Charlie believes a higher authority led her to that grave, and I think she is right.
Billy now lies peacefully in a grave in a beautiful Hampshire church yard tended by gentle, caring hands. And really, he deserves nothing less.
Sleep Peacefully, Billy
unfortunately, I have written that Billy was a sergeant when actually his rank was that of captain. I do apologise for any confusion this may have caused