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Title: Sex and morale : the sexual life of the British soldier on the Western Front, 1914-1918
Author: Cherry, David Bruce
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2012
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The study addresses the sexual life of British soldiers on the Great War’s Western Front, and seeks to investigate what role sex, in its broadest forms, played in the maintenance of morale and in providing men with compensations for the general horrors and privations of war. The validity of the venereal disease statistics, often used as a comparative measure of activity, are shown to under-record the amount of men infected, and to ascribe the source of the infection largely to sex on the home front. This has arguably led to an underestimation of sexual activity on the Western Front itself and thereby obscured a consideration of sex as a constituent of morale. The study illustrates that sexual activity was widespread amongst all ranks, all ages and all classes of soldier, despite an initial assumption that Victorian/Edwardian moral codes would have prevented such. An analysis of the presumed pre-enlistment moral codes of the civilian-soldiers who were to serve over the war’s course is made, and factors explored that may have influenced change in an individual’s attitude towards casual sex once in the army. The attitude and policy of the army to the provision of sex is considered, and it is demonstrated that the army appreciated the importance of attending to the needs of the soldier. The amount and type of casual sex occurring through fraternisation with the local women is examined in its social and geographic context, and the extent to which this was ’wild love’, or non-paid for sex examined. The workings and economics of the officially regulated brothels are discussed, as are the individual soldier’s attitudes to such and to the women they found there. The study also looks at the amount and scope of clandestine prostitution, the existence and use of pornography and the obscene, and examines sex crimes perpetrated by British soldiers, including the then military crime of homosexuality. The study also discusses reasons why an earlier exploration of the soldier’s sex life has not been undertaken, concluding that there may have been an element of unconscious reputation protection. Use is made of both of oral testimony and personal written accounts of war experiences, both published and unpublished.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available