Peter Wildeblood

Hi!

So BBC2 are showing a new show on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK as part of the Gay Britannia season. Aptly named Against The Law, it takes its name from the book of the main character: Peter Wildeblood. Thus, I thought that it was apt to do a biography on Peter Wildeblood while all can still catch the dramatisation on BBC iPlayer.

Peter was born on the Italian Rivera in 1923 and brought up near Ashdown Forest. He won a scholarship to Radley College in Oxfordshire where he excelled. From this foundation, Peter then went to Trinity College, Oxford in 1941 but because of ill health he was forced to drop out. After his recovery, he volunteered in the Royal Air Force for the remainder of the Second World War, first as a pilot in modern-day Zimbabwe and later as a meteorologist after a series of crashes. Following the war, he continued at Trinity College, with a friendship group which was centred in the theatre and arts.

Following his time at Oxford, graduating with second-class honours, Peter worked as a hotel waiter by day and a journalist by night. He wrote articles for Vogue, Punch and Printer’s Pies while at the hotel. Sacked from the hotel, he wrote Primrose and The Peanuts, a play which was orchestrated in Camden, garnering excellent reviews in the national press. From here, he joined the staff of the Daily Mail and worked through the ranks so that within five years he became the diplomatic correspondent.

However in 1954, Peter fell victim to the case which was to define his actions for the British LGBT+ community and, to a certain extent, his entire life. Peter became involved in the trial through an attempt by prosecutors to secure a high-profile conviction of Lord Montagu. Following a weekend spent with Lord Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers, John Reynolds and Peter’s lover Edward McNally. Charged with “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons” along with Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers, during the course of the trial he admitted his sexuality to the court, becoming one of the first publicly homosexual figures in Britain. Peter was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his actions, yet the result of the trial was much more far-reaching. It led to an inquiry which resulted in the Wolfenden Report, a report which was published in 1957 which advocated the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Wildeblood himself testified to the committee which published the report, the Wolfenden committee, and his testimony was considered influential to the result.
Following his stint in prison, Peter published a book on the case in 1955. Against the Law was an account of Peter’s experiences of the law, the British establishment, the appaling conditions of HMP Wormwood Scrubs and encouraged both prison reform and homosexuality law reform. The book was made cheap so that anyone could read it and a copy was sent to every MP, in anticipation of a debate on the topic of the legalisation of homosexuality in light of the Montagu trial. The book was highly influential, leading to Wildeblood releasing a second book, A Way of Life which included depictions of regular homosexual life in the hopes of normalising homosexuals. Certainly, Peter’s role in the decriminalisation of homosexuality is well-noted, and he was well aware of his obligations as a role model of his community and a well known homosexual. He involved himself in the rehabilitation of prisoners to show that gay people were not a separate species and cared about their community. Peter released more books as well, The Main Chance (1957) and West End People (1958), which were not as popular and lacked the conviction of his previous work.
Following the trial, Wildeblood became a television producer and writer. He even wrote a musical based on his book West End People which was called The Crooked Mile which was received positively.

So BBC2 are showing a new show on the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK as part of the Gay Britannia season. Aptly named Against The Law, it takes its name from the book of the main character: Peter Wildeblood. Thus, I thought that it was apt to do a biography on Peter Wildeblood while all can still catch the dramatisation on BBC iPlayer.
Peter was born on the Italian Rivera in 1923 and brought up near Ashdown Forest. He won a scholarship to Radley College in Oxfordshire where he excelled. From this foundation, Peter then went to Trinity College, Oxford in 1941 but because of ill health he was forced to drop out. After his recovery, he volunteered in the Royal Air Force for the remainder of the Second World War, first as a pilot in modern-day Zimbabwe and later as a meteorologist after a series of crashes. Following the war, he continued at Trinity College, with a friendship group which was centred in the theatre and arts. 
Following his time at Oxford, graduating with second-class honours, Peter worked as a hotel waiter by day and a journalist by night. He wrote articles for Vogue, Punch and Printer’s Pies while at the hotel. Sacked from the hotel, he wrote Primrose and The Peanuts, a play which was orchestrated in Camden, garnering excellent reviews in the national press. From here, he joined the staff of the Daily Mail and worked through the ranks so that within five years he became the diplomatic correspondent.
However in 1954, Peter fell victim to the case which was to define his actions for the British LGBT+ community and, to a certain extent, his entire life. Peter became involved in the trial through an attempt by prosecutors to secure a high-profile conviction of Lord Montagu. Following a weekend spent with Lord Montagu, Michael Pitt-Rivers, John Reynolds and Peter’s lover Edward McNally. Charged with “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons” along with Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers, during the course of the trial he admitted his sexuality to the court, becoming one of the first publicly homosexual figures in Britain. Peter was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his actions, yet the result of the trial was much more far-reaching. It led to an inquiry which resulted in the Wolfenden Report, a report which was published in 1957 which advocated the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Wildeblood himself testified to the committee which published the report, the Wolfenden committee, and his testimony was considered influential to the result.
Following his stint in prison, Peter published a book on the case in 1955. Against the Law was an account of Peter’s experiences of the law, the British establishment, the appaling conditions of HMP Wormwood Scrubs and encouraged both prison reform and homosexuality law reform. The book was made cheap so that anyone could read it and a copy was sent to every MP, in anticipation of a debate on the topic of the legalisation of homosexuality in light of the Montagu trial. The book was highly influential, leading to Wildeblood releasing a second book, A Way of Life which included depictions of regular homosexual life in the hopes of normalising homosexuals. Certainly, Peter’s role in the decriminalisation of homosexuality is well-noted, and he was well aware of his obligations as a role model of his community and a well known homosexual. He involved himself in the rehabilitation of prisoners to show that gay people were not a separate species and cared about their community. Peter released more books as well, The Main Chance (1957) and West End People (1958), which were not as popular and lacked the conviction of his previous work.

Following the trial, Wildeblood became a television producer and writer in the 60s and 70s, with shows like The Great Detective and Victoria Regina. He even wrote a musical based on his book West End People which was called The Crooked Mile which was received positively.

In the 1970s, after a successful run with Granada Studios, Peter accepted a lucrative deal with Toronto-based CBC, moving to Canada for the rest of his life, becoming a Canadian citizen in the 1980s. 

Peter was left quadriplegic after a stroke in 1994, also losing his ability to speak. He died in 1999 in British Columbia. 

Catch Against The Law on BBC iPlayer until August 25th to learn more about Peter Wildeblood and the Montagu Trial. 

Joe xo

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s