Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Leo Charlton

Air Commodore Lionel Evelyn Oswald "Leo" Charlton (1879-1958) was a British soldier with a distinguished career. He served in the Second Boer War in South Africa as an infantry officer and later as a brigadier general in the British Army during WW I. Charlton transferred to the Royal Air Force (RAF) upon its creation to became Chief of Air Staff in Iraq in 1923. A year later he resigned that post in protest against the British air raids against helpless Iraqi civilians. He visited hospitals where he saw many horribly mangled Iraqis, including women and children. Charlton expected that there would be an investigation upon his resignation. Unfortunately, there was none, and he requested early retirement from military service, which was granted in 1928.

His military awards included Companion of the Order of the Bath, Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, Distinguished Service Order and Knight of the Légion d'honneur. In recent years, the memory of Charlton was taken up by opponents of the recent war in Iraq, specifically by British opponents of their country's involvement in that war, who hold him up as an example to be emulated by present-day officers.

Charlton's longtime lover was an ex-RAF airman named Tom Wichelo. The couple remained together for 23 years, until Charlton’s death in 1958. When Charlton and Wichelo "pitched camp" in Dover in the late 1930s, much of literary London followed them. The main attraction seems to have been the easy availability of soldiers and sailors on leave in the coastal town.

W.H. Auden pictured the scene in his poem "Dover":

    Soldiers crowd into the pubs in their pretty clothes,
    As pink and silly as girls from a high-class academy.

Prominent homosexual personalities like Raymond Mortimer, Duncan Grant, and actors like John Gielgud revolved around Charlton. They met in London at Gennaro’s, in New Compton Street, which was famous for the astonishingly handsome waiters selected by the owner during repeated visits to Italy.

Charlton was also the author of a series of boys’ books, such as “The Camp at Auld-Man-Shiel”. These were adventure novels for adolescents, featuring athletic boys who loved aviation. Charlton became a close friend of famed writers J.R. Ackerley and E.M. Forster. When Charlton wrote his autobiography (1938), he dedicated it to Wichelo, Forster and Ackerley.

1 comment:

  1. He was also of of the few Lancashire Fusileer officers to survive the Battle of Spionkop (wounded twice) on the 24th Jan 1900, and received the DSO for his efforts...