Camping through the Falklands, hidden history of the war’s gay seafarers
Feature: Camping through the Falklands, hidden history of the war’s gay seafarers
30 years ago this month, steward Roy ‘Wendy’ Gibson was playing his usual pink piano on his usual ship, the ferry Norland. Like Liberace mixed with Barbra Streisand, his sing-along tunes like Keep the Home Fires Burning and We are Sailing delighted the passengers. But this time the passengers were troops and the destination wasn’t Rotterdam but the far-off South Atlantic.
Paratroopers went on to make him their first gay ‘mascot’ and he became the most famous out gay man of the Falklands/Malvinas War. The 2 Para Battalion honoured him with their official red beret to put on his glitter-filled hair. The Sun even mounted a search for him so that he could attend the 25th anniversary celebrations at Aldershot.
Wendy was one of as many as a thousand out gay men among the 7,000 seafarers on 52 merchant ships in that war, not to mention all the closeted others on the GBT spectrum.
This is because passenger ships then had a strong gay, indeed camp culture. On some peacetime vessels up to 95 per cent of the stewarding crew were out homosexuals and trans people – which was a shock to macho troops.