In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers' Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters
In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers’ Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters

In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers’ Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters

Shannon Quinn - July 4, 2018

In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers’ Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters
Two gay soldiers relaxing together in uniform. Credit: DailyMail

A Life-Long Secret

Despite feeling all of these intense emotions, they had to keep it a secret. Being openly gay would not be decriminalized until The Sexual Offenses Act in 1967. Even then, no one could have gay sex until over the age of 21. The men imagined a world where they could openly tell their family and friends about their relationship, but they knew that it needed to stay behind closed doors. They playfully asked one another to imagine their father’s reactions, but knew it would never come to pass, writing, “The rest of the world has no conception of what our love is.”

Not surprisingly, there were other gay men that were drafted into the army as well. Spending years apart can be lonely, and Gilbert Bradley met and had relationships with two other men during the war when he was stationed in Scotland. He was completely honest about it in his letters to Gordon, as if they had an agreement that what happens in war stays in war. Gordon replied to the news, “(I understand) why they fell in love with you. After all, so did I.

They wrote to one another from 1939 to 1945, and then, the letters stop. Maybe Gordon could no longer bear to think of Gilbert having affairs with other men, or the hope that they could ever be together was becoming less and less likely as their personal lives were forced to move forward. They put up a good fight, but the war had torn them apart. Too many years. Too many broken promises and unfulfilled dreams, but for years, they were truly waiting for one another.

In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers’ Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters
Gilbert would write any chance he got, even if he was traveling in hotels. Credit:

In one of the letters, Gilbert pleaded with Gordon to destroy the evidence, so that there would be no trace that could possibly incriminate them. For the vast majority of gay men writing letters to one another during that time, they actually did burn the letters. Clearly, though, Gordon and Gilbert valued the memories of their love far more than the risk of getting caught. Nearly 600 letters still existed in his home, and there may have been more at one point in time.

In one of the letters, they write, ‘My darling boy. For years I had it drummed into me that no love could last for life…I want you darling seriously to delve into your own mind, and to look for once in to the future. Imagine the time when the war is over and we are living together… would it not be better to live on from now on the memory of our life together when it was at its most golden pitch.”

In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers’ Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters
The full collection of letters. Credit:

No Fairytale Ending

Sadly, there was no happy ending for them. At least, not together. For years, they had dreams of leaving England and moving to the United States, where they could live in sunny California, which was known for being more accepting of homosexuals. They went on vacation there after the war, and Gordon Bowsher really did move to California, but he did it alone. He followed in his father’s footsteps by starting a business. He made his own fortune by breeding and training horses.

Gilbert Bradley continued to have relationships with men in the military, and he was eventually caught with a famous politician named Sir Paul Latham in 1941. He was court-martialed from the military for “improper conduct”, but thankfully, he was not imprisoned or killed. He found a job as a studio assistant at the BBC, and eventually retired in Brighton Beach, where he lived to be 92 years old. He kept the letters until he died, in 2008.

No one knows exactly why they broke up, or why they couldn’t go through with living out the dream they shared for so many years. The letters never talk about this- or, if they do, Mark Hignett hasn’t found them yet. Maybe Gilbert Bradley only wanted to remember their best moments- their “golden pitch”.

In one of the letters, it says, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time. Then all the world could see how in love we are.”

In WWII, Two Gay Soldiers’ Forbidden Romance Lives On In Their Love Letters
Mark Hignett and his collection of love letters. Credit:

Thankfully, that’s exactly what’s happening. Mark Hignett plans to publish a book with all of the complete letters in chronological order. When the story of their love was first broadcast on the BBC, dozens of movie producers, playwrights, and songwriters approached Mark Hignett, because they were so inspired by the story, that they wanted to create art-based on their love. Someday in the future, there will most likely be a Hollywood film coming out about their story, and people are already anticipating that it will make more people cry than Titanic and Brokeback Mountain combined.

At a local festival called Heritage Open Days, people who were inspired by the love letters got together for a writing workshop. They wrote their own letters in the couple’s honor, and then burned them. The ashes were collected, and they had it made into a diamond ring that symbolizes the love that would last forever.


Where Do we get this Stuff? Here are our Sources.

These Newly Discovered Love Letters Between Two Gay Soldiers In World War II Will Have You In Tears. Katie O’Malley. Elle Magazine. 2017

War Time Love Letters Reveal Epic Gay Love Story Kept Secret for Decades. Richard Hartley-Parkinson.

Gilbert & Gordon: Then All The World Could See How in Love We Are. Heritage Open Days.

Gilbert And Gordon’s Forbidden Love Story to Become A Hollywood Movie. Shropshire Star.

Read These Love Letters from A WW2 Soldier to His Boyfriend. Pink News.

These Newly Discovered Love Letters Between Two Gay World War II Soldiers Tell A Heartwarming Story Of Forbidden Love. Yahoo Life.