They Didnt Want To Die Virgins: Sex And Morale In The British Army On The Western Front 1914-1918 (Wolverhampton Military Studies)
Publish Date: 2016-03-01
Author: Bruce Cherry
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There has been a collective amnesia when it comes to recalling the sexual activities of the British soldier on the Western Front between 1914 and 1918. Perhaps there has even been a conspiracy of silence with some inclined to let sleeping dogs lie. That the soldier could find the time, inclination, and indeed partners to enjoy a sex life amidst the mud and carnage is often a revelation even to those who are Western Front experts. Yet, as official venereal disease treatment figures attest, many a man or boy - even those with wife or sweetheart at home - took every opportunity offered to satisfy their lust, or assuage their natural youthful curiosity. Sexual adventures took place in regulated brothels, with wayside prostitutes, and with compliant local women, themselves seeking the excitement of wild love. And the army not only turned a blind eye but effectively became a procurer as Edwardian morals were sacrificed for morale and the need to keep men healthy enough to die in the line. This meticulously researched study examines the soldiers sex life in detail, exploring its impact on morale and placing it the context of both prewar civilian morality and the armys historic policy on sex. The author has read between the lines of published and unpublished memoirs and letters; listened carefully to hundreds of memories stored at Londons Imperial War Museum; analyzed soldiers songs and jokes; and reinterpreted contemporary paintings, magazine illustrations, postcards and cartoons, that unconsciously left visual evidence of the importance of sex. Recently discovered unique photographs are included to give weight to his argument. The mens attitudes as well as actions are examined, as is their ownership and use of pornography. Noting that it takes two tango, the book looks at the socio-demographics and motives of the women involved and the workings and economics of the Red Lamp army-regulated brothels. Careful not to denigrate the memory of the men who served and died, and avoiding sensationalism, hyperbole, or tabloid-style copy, the author paints a vivid picture of the seedier aspects of line behind the front while arguing its positive impact on morale.