Peter Wildeblood was one of the more public victims of the relentless witchhunt of gay men by the police and the press in Britain in the early 1950s. On 9 January 1954 he was arrested and charged with ‘conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons’ (aka, buggery).
The previous summer, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu had offered Wildeblood the use of a beach hut near his country estate. Wildeblood brought two young RAF servicemen, John Reynolds, and his lover Edward McNally. Also present was Montagu’s cousin, Michael Pitt-Rivers. At the trial the two airmen turned Queen’s Evidence, claiming there’d been dancing and ‘abandoned behaviour’. (Wildeblood himself described the evening as ‘extremely dull’). Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were sentenced to 18 months in prison while Montagu received 12 months. After his conviction, Wildeblood lost his job as diplomatic correspondent for The Daily Mail.
On release, he published Against The Law (1955), an account of his life up to and including his time in prison. The book influenced the Wolfenden Committee whose Report in 1957 led to the changes in the law a decade later decriminalizing homosexuality. He bought a bar in Berwick Street, whose denizens were the subject for his second book, A Way of Life (1956). Both books were a great resource when it came to writing the 1954 section of my novel, London Triptych.
We owe a great deal to Wildeblood and men like him. With their courage & fight, their refusal to shut up & hide, they helped us move out of the dark ages and into the freedoms gay men enjoy today.