There was an interesting programme in the series of Channel 4's Secret History a
few days ago. It gave an insight into the circumstances which contributed
to the dramatic increase in the crime rate in Britain during World War Two. From
1939 to 1945 the prison population grew by more than 40 per cent as life on the
home front - when people endured bombing raids, shortages and tragedies - created
ideal opportunities for those with criminal tendencies to break the law.
Of particular interest was the way in which criminal activities 'of the dark'
there was a roaring trade in prostitution
In London, for example, there was a roaring trade in prostitution as soldiers
home on leave came to the UK capital seeking the high life - cinema, dancing,
gambling, night clubs, alcohol etc.
And women came from as far away as Wales to enjoy the nightlife.
London was one of the most exciting places to be.
There was an explosion of hedonism, perhaps partly as a result of the war
itself. After all, people never knew what might happen tomorrow, or next
month. There was uncertainty. And the policy of many was to live for the day.
Indeed, many of the young women travelled to the city not only for leisure
purposes but to take part in the lucrative sex trade. They were the 'amateur'
prostitutes, who spent, perhaps, just a week or so in London in order to earn 'extra' money
to take back home for scarce luxuries. When they ran out and needed more, they simply
returned to the capital.
There were always thousands of American GI's in London and in other major
cities, on leave for a couple of weeks, and they were very willing and eager to have a good
the American GI's were the tops. The UK girls
And the American GI's were the tops. The UK girls adored them. They found
them handsome, refreshing, fun and exhilarating. There was the Hollywood glamour about them, and
they were considered to be very handsome indeed.
They were romantic too.
Of course, relatively speaking, they were also quite rich! And they were
certainly good for a few presents, such as stockings and chocolates - which were
rare commodities in war-time Britain.
It was every young girl's dream to capture an American and marry him. And young
women flocked to the cities in the hope of meeting that special one.
But what about OUR boys? - one wonders. (The less handsome ones.) What about all the British young men from the
towns and the villages? (The ones without the glamour.) What were THEY doing while their
young female COUNTERPARTS
lived it up in the cities and sought good-looking American husbands?
Well. They were mostly surviving, dying
or being damaged in the most horrible of circumstances
But the programme didn't mention this.
Ah yes. Those were the days when women were 'oppressed'.
‘Young Sluts and Vicious Debauchery'
The following article will, perhaps, help to lay to rest the myth (currently
being promulgated by the feminists and western governments) which tries to
portray all sex workers as victims.
For the most part, they are not - when compared to the rest of the
population among whom they live.
GIs in West End were led astray by ‘young sluts
and vicious debauchery’
The Times (London)
Good-time girls threatened morals, morale and
international relations, the National Archive reveals
THE “moral laxity” of women during the
Second World War was perceived to be so degenerate that it strained relations
between Britain and America.
Ministers and their officials were so worried
about the impact of promiscuity on public opinion in the United States that a
series of high-level Whitehall meetings was held to devise ways of cracking down
The rift between Britain and its US ally came
as thousands of American troops began to be stationed in or near London in 1942,
documents released today at the National Archive in Kew, southwest London,
the US troops proved to be irresistible to many
While the popular impression of the influx of
GIs was of an alluring group of men who were “overpaid, over-sexed and over
here”, it transpires that they were not the sexual predators worrying
Whitehall. Rather, the US troops proved to be irresistible to many British
women, often living alone because of the war, and who in bleak wartime Britain
were only too glad to grab the chance of some fun.
American troops wrote home in such colourful
terms about being propositioned by prostitutes and “good-time” girls in the
West End of London that the US military demanded action be taken to curb the “debauchery”.
So bad was the West End considered to be that US troops who caught venereal
disease became known as “Piccadilly commandos”.
there was a problem with “good-time girls”
A report by a Superintendent Cole, the West
End’s senior police officer, noted: “This district is an acknowledged ‘mecca’
of Service personnel”. He played down the scale of prostitution but accepted
there was a problem with “good-time girls”.
American views were shared by many British
officials who were anxious that the licenciousness be halted for fear of handing
a propaganda victory to the Axis powers. These fears were heightened when
stories appeared in US newspapers portraying the West End as a seething mass of
Admiral Sir Edward Evans, of the London Civil
Defence regional headquarters, described the scenes at Leicester Square in a
letter in 1943 to Air Vice- Marshal Sir Philip Game, the Metropolitan Police
Commissioner. “Leicester Square at night is the resort of the worst type of
women and girls consorting with men of the British and American Forces, in which
the latter seem to predominate,” he said. “Of course the American soldiers
are encouraged by these young sluts, many of whom should be serving in the
Forces. At night the Square is apparently given over to a vicious debauchery.”
A memorandum to Herbert Morrison, the Home
Secretary, said that “there is a widespread demoralisation among girls
resulting in a conspicuous initiative to promiscuous relations on the part of
many of them”.
In April 1943 the Home Office held a
conference to consider the issue of promiscuity in the West End and the
resultant “venereal disease and bastardy”. It was attended by ministeries
and allied military personnel. American officers were worried about the effect
that venereal disease would have upon their manpower but at least one, Brigadier
General Hawley, accepted there was “no more moral laxity in this country than
in the US ”.
A series of measures was proposed, including banning
women from certain streets where they might meet GIs
A series of measures was proposed, including
banning women from certain streets where they might meet GIs, but police were
adamant that they were doing all that could be done and that the onus was on the
US authorities to rein in their soldiers. Among moves taken by the US military
was a scheme by which nurses would “discreetly” approach women who had
passed on VD to troops to persuade them to be treated. Another was to reduce the
money available to troops by encouraging them to bank a proportion of their pay.
The Commissioner was impatient with American
accusations that his men were doing too little. After a meeting with an American
major and a judge he wrote: “I told them frankly it was our view the problem
was best tackled from the other end, ie, by getting at the men and that, whilst
it was a waste of breath to talk to a hard case, it was not a waste of breath to
talk to a decent boy.
“(The) Judge is very persistent in his idea
that the boys should be able to write home saying that they never saw a doubtful
lady in the streets of London. I pointed out that in these days it was quite
impossible to distinguish many over-painted possibly respectable persons from
the professionals and that to me, at any rate, they all looked the same.”
'I'm Leaving You'
Daily Telegraph 13 Nov 2005 ...
He survived the horrors of the trenches and the deprivations of a prisoner of war camp but for Pte Harry Nelson the deadliest blow came from the home front.
A letter from his wife Lil, sent to him in 1915 while he was a prisoner of war, includes a stark admission of adultery and the heart-breaking news that she is to leave him for another man.
Against the backdrop of the First World War this was a small personal tragedy. However, the devastating two page letter, found in a Government archive 90 years later, illustrates the high price that was paid even by some who did not lose their lives. The correspondence will be made available to the public tomorrow by the National Archive at Kew.
Ministry of Defence officials kept a typed copy of Lil Nelson's letter. In it she told her husband, who served in the 1st Bn Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment, that she had fallen in love with a man who helped her to cope with the deprivations of wartime London. "I had to get rid of most of the home, for I could not pay the rent but thank God I have found a friend that loves me," she wrote.
Do not upset yourself over your little ones, for they are loved like me
and well looked after
"I hope you will not think it hard of me, but I am going right away in another land to a better home. Do not upset yourself over your little ones, for they are loved like me and well looked after. I hope you will not come and try and find me, nor take them away from me, for you are a man and I only a girl and their mother.
"I am going where I shall be well off and happy."
Mrs Nelson makes no allowances for the fact that her husband is a prisoner in Germany. She berates him for putting the happiness of his mother and sister before that of her own before he went off to war, and tells him his children regard her lover as their real father. She said her neighbours in Hammersmith, west London, still hold him in high regard and they will continue to write to him.
She goes on to reveal: "I shall be a mother to his little one soon, but yours are loved just the same.
I hope you will not take this to heart too much
"I hope you will not take this to heart too much for I know it is hard on you, but you will be better off without us, with your mother, and find someone to love better than me. I must close now, hoping you will not try and find us. Love from the little ones, they think he is their daddy (so he is)."
Mrs Nelson ends her letter with: "Your wife in name only, Lil," before adding: "Please God look after you and bring you home safe. This has been hard on me and has driven me to this."
Other documents show that Pte Nelson, who is believed to have survived the war, did everything possible to secure custody of his children. He wrote to the American ambassador in Berlin, who was then responsible for the welfare of British prisoners of war.
In a letter sent to the American embassy in May 1915 he is particularly keen that he should be told the identity of his "betrayer". He wrote: "First and foremost ascertain the man's identity, and position. Also secure the custody of my three little children and place them under such care and supervision as you may deem advisable.
"If it is possible to institute divorce proceedings before I return, please do so. I should like to mention that I can give no reason for this whatever, as for over five years, we have been on most happy terms, and I have no ideas who my betrayer is. Whatever action you may wish to take you have carte blanche to do so. Any further information you may require I shall be happy to supply you with."
American officials appear to have been confused about the best course of action. One memo, which notes that Pte Nelson's wife has "run off with another man", states: "I am rather at a loss to know what to do about this."