'I hid who I was' - Veteran recalls trauma of being interrogated by army over her sexuality

  • By ITV Wales journalist Liam McConkey

A former servicewoman has spoken about the "horrific" experience of being interrogated by military police over her sexuality which forced her to leave a job she loved.

Ruth Birch, joined the army in February 1987 as an Analyst in the Intelligence Corps and recalled how she had to "put up" a front to hide who she really was.

She said: "I knew that I had to hide it because I wanted to serve my Queen and country and that was what I wanted to do but I couldn't be the person I really was, so I had to put up another person so that I wasn't going to be found out.

"Looking back I really don't know how I coped, I think mental health wise to pretend you're somebody else and to keep that person up is not healthy but it's something that you did because you wanted to be in the army."

Up until the year 2000, anyone found out to be LGBT in the military would be dishonourably discharged, losing their status, medals and their military pensions, even though homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK in 1967.

The army is set to respond to an independent review looking into the effect of the ban

Twenty three years on, the UK Government is set to respond to an independent review looking at the treatment of veterans and measures to support them.

While Ruth was excelling in her career, she discovered she was being investigated for having a relationship with another officer.

"I came back to my room and it was completely ransacked, it looked like it'd been burgled. All of a sudden, I was marched away and I'm taken by the Royal Military Police and then the SIB - they say interviewed but actually it's interrogation.

At the time Ruth had been seeing a woman called Ju who was also serving in Northern Ireland, but they kept their relationship a secret.

Even though no evidence was found, Ju was sent away to Cyprus in the early 90s. They still wrote to one another but had to do so in code.

Ruth claims the interrogations continued and in fear of being dishonourably discharged, Ruth decided to leave the armed forces all together.

Twenty five years later, Ruth and Ju rekindled their friendship and decided to meet up after all these years.

"We met down in Porthcawl for the fireworks of all things and as soon as we were together it was like we'd never been apart.

"So it's quite incredible that 25 years later that the army splits us up but then we finally managed to come back together.

"We're soulmates and it feels like we've been together forever, but over 25 years of my life was ripped away of that time spent with Ju."

The LGBT Veterans Review has been submitted to the UK Government which examined the effect that the homosexuality ban had on service personnel.

It says the UK Government accepts that the historic policy was wrong and has "committed to work to understand, acknowledge and where appropriate, address the effect it has had on veterans".

In a statement, the UK Government added: "“We are proud of our LGBT+ veterans and grateful for their service in defence of our nation.

“We can confirm that Lord Etherton has concluded his independent review and submitted his report to the Government. 

“In line with the terms of reference we will carefully consider the findings and respond in due course."

Ruth said she hopes there will be recommendations, particularly financial ones, but also a formal apology.

She said: "We hope there's going to be quite a few recommendations, perhaps looking at financial, giving back something because veterans lost so much financially.

"We need that formal apology, things have changed but also to have it formally would show that there is that acceptance that it was wrong."

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