Jailed gay soldier: ‘Return of cap badge is a proud moment and it has given me closure’

Veteran talks of his pride and says he would now encourage any young gay person to join the Army

Sports Jun 21, 2024 IDOPRESS

Stephen Close salutes at his Manchester home after his military cap and ceremonial badge were returned to him by the Royal Fusiliers


A former member of the Armed Forces who was jailed for kissing a fellow serviceman in the 1980s has become one of the first gay veterans to have his ceremonial cap badge returned to him.

Stephen Close,61,was court-martialled,discharged with disgrace,imprisoned and placed on the sex offenders register for having a relationship with a fellow soldier.

Earlier this week,he was invited to the Royal Fusiliers’ regimental headquarters at the Tower of London to re-receive his military cap and badge,40 years after his discharge.

Mr Close,from Salford,Greater Manchester,said: “It was a proud moment for me. It took a lifetime,but it came and it has given me closure.”

Mr Close was stationed in Berlin in 1983 when he became romantically engaged with a fellow male soldier after a night out. However,they were seen by a colleague who reported them.

Restoring cap badges to discharged service personnel was among the recommendations made by an LGBT independent veterans review

Credit: William Lailey/SWNS

He said he was questioned by the Greater Manchester Police and swabbed for a DNA sample before being paraded around the base in front of his colleagues. He was then charged for gross indecency,jailed for six months,and discharged from the Army.

Mr Close and his boyfriend served their time in separate prisons and never saw each other again. While in prison,he was forced to wear a red ribbon to mark him out to guards and fellow inmates.

“In Nazi Germany,gays had to wear pink triangles,I had to wear a red ribbon,” he said.

“I suffered with anxiety for a long time. It was frustrating really,it took a toll on my mental health. It wasn’t just the court case,it was the total abandonment from my military mates,who knew who I was. That hurt.”

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967,but it remained an offence in the Armed Forces until 1994. A ban on homosexuals serving in the British military was not lifted until 2000.

Following Mr Close’s release from prison,he remained on the sex offenders register and was unable to work with children or vulnerable people until he was given a royal pardon in 2013 – the same year that Alan Turing,the mathematician and code-breaker,was posthumously pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II.

‘Too ashamed’

Restoring cap badges to discharged service personnel was among the recommendations made by an LGBT independent veterans review last year.

Mr Close said that for years he had felt “too ashamed” to attend Remembrance events and had found it too painful to attend regimental reunions.

He said: “There were a lot of people in the room that day that came in after the ban was lifted.

“My battalion has been quite proud to recruit LGBT recruits to demonstrate they’re openly accepting of gay people. I would encourage any young gay person to join the Army now,but it’s taken a while. Even a few years after the ban was lifted,I wouldn’t have,but I would now.

“People are accepting it more now,eventually it will just become the norm. It’s a good thing.”

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