Ex-serviceman ‘tortured’ by RAF for being gay wants justice for others

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Simon Hinchley-Robson at his home in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Simon Hinchley-Robson at his home in London (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

A former serviceman who faced “torture” by the RAF when it was revealed he was gay has vowed to fight for justice for others who suffered the same treatment.

Simon Hinchley-Robson was working at RAF Brawdy in west Wales when his superiors found out he was gay.

The armed forces cook was subjected to four days of interrogation, including strip searches and what was described as “torture” by his MP Clive Efford, in a harrowing testimony in the House of Commons.

Mr Hinchley-Robson, 57, who lives in south-east London has vowed to fight for recognition that what happened to him was wrong, and said others faced the same treatment.

He also believes that despite Government claims the armed forces are now LGBT-friendly, this is not the case.

There are at least four people that I know, from Gibraltar to back in the UK, who went through a similar thing and unfortunately they hanged themselves. I want justice for them as well

Simon Hinchley-Robson

Mr Hinchley-Robson, who MPs heard was aged 21 when he was discharged from the RAF in 1986 for being gay, told the PA news agency: “I wanted them to come forward and say they were wrong.

“All I wanted was my pension reinstated. That was it. I wasn’t after major money or anything like that.

“There are so many people who will have gone through exactly the same.

“There are at least four people that I know, from Gibraltar to back in the UK, who went through a similar thing and unfortunately they hanged themselves.

“And I want justice for them as well.”

He added: “Although they say you can be open in the forces, I would still dispute, if I walked into an army recruitment office or the marines and said ‘by the way I am gay, I want to join up’, they would find everything they could to stop me from joining up. They really would.”

Mr Hinchley-Robson signed up to serve his country in 1980.

But in 1986, while serving as a chef at the RAF base in Pembrokeshire, he became ill and was diagnosed as having glandular fever.

He continued to lose weight after the diagnosis by RAF medical staff and he requested a test for Aids.

Simon Hinchley-Robson was discharged from the RAF in 1986 (Simon Hinchley-Robson/PA) (PA Media)
Simon Hinchley-Robson was discharged from the RAF in 1986 (Simon Hinchley-Robson/PA) (PA Media)

Mr Hinchley-Robson was transferred to a civilian hospital where he took the test and was discharged after 10 days.

The request for the test was taken as an admission that he was gay, and on his return Mr Hinchley-Robson was arrested by RAF police, the special investigation branch.

In testimony read in the Commons by Eltham MP Mr Efford, Mr Hinchley-Robson wrote that what happened to him next was “the most horrendous and awful experience no-one should ever have to endure”.

He said: “I was led to an interrogation room, this – unknown to me – was going to be my home for the next four days.

“I was denied food, I was denied sleep and only given small amounts of water.

“I was immediately searched, asked to strip and searched internally. They said this was the procedure.”

MPs heard he refused a request to name any person in any of the services that he had some sort of relationship with, leading to him being assaulted.

He added: “The medical gloves went on and I was again subject to what I can only say was rape while I was again internally searched.”

A new search followed a change of shift every four hours, with Mr Efford describing what happened to his constituent as “a form of torture for being gay”.

Simon Hinchley-Robson said other people in the same situation took their own lives (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)
Simon Hinchley-Robson said other people in the same situation took their own lives (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Wire)

After the Labour MP raised the treatment of his constituent in Parliament, the Government invited Mr Hinchley-Robson to apply to have his armed forces pension reinstated and insisted the military was a more welcoming place to LGBT people today than in the 80s.

Mr Efford told PA he was “struck by the response from the Government”, adding: “They were listening, there was more of a tone of understanding and contrition than we had been getting from our correspondence.”

He added: “There must be many other people who have been treated in a similar way, and I would urge them to come forward if they have seen the debate.

“If they are saying ‘I’m in that situation myself’ then please come forward and we will try to work together to get some justice.”

An MoD spokesperson said: “We are proud of LGBT+ service personnel and value their current and historic contributions to our Armed Forces.

“It will always remain deeply regrettable that personnel were historically discriminated against because of their sexuality, it was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now. We do not tolerate any form of bullying, harassment and discrimination within defence.

“We take the wellbeing of all those who have served extremely seriously and have a range of support mechanisms in place for our veterans.”

It is understood the Government is currently working to understand the impact of how LGBT people were treated in the armed forces before the year 2000.

A series of dedicated services have been set up to help veterans with mental health problems and other issues in recent years.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting