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Being a 'poofter' in the army


'Any fool can be uncomfortable'
Brian Sewell Writer
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I moved on to Mons, which is the officer training unit, and had an officer there, a captain from the Glosters, who had been really rather routed, I suppose is the word, in Korea, and he had come home wounded. The Korean War was still on, and he… we were out on a manoeuvre one day, and we’d been out, I think, two or three days. And it had been pretty tough, and we were bivouacking for the night somewhere, and having to dig trenches and all the other things which you do.

I was sharing a trench with another boy, and just over there, there were two others. And I remember… I can’t remember his name, but he wandered around, this Glosters man, looking at what we were doing, just sort of saying virtually nothing. And then, at this neighbouring trench, after a moment or two of standing there with his hands on his hips, he said, 'Any fool can be uncomfortable', and walked away. And I thought that was brilliant. 'Any fool can be uncomfortable'. It said everything to both the two boys who were being commented on, but also to their neighbours. And the difference between us was that we had made ourselves reasonably comfortable, and the other two had chosen the wrong direction for the lie of the trench, and all the usual things that make things go wrong, so…

And of course, it’s true, any fool can be uncomfortable. You can always make yourself more comfortable than you might. And I mean, years later, and wandering around Turkey and occasionally having to spend the night in the open air or in a bus station or something like that, I would remember that captain in the Glosters and say, 'Well, any fool can be uncomfortable', and find some way of adapting my knapsack and whatever luggage I had to making myself comfortable. It was a well-learned lesson.

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Mons Officer Cadet School, Gloucestershire Regiment, Glosters, Korean War, National Service

Duration: 2 minutes, 37 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2013

Date story went live: 04 July 2013