‘Admirals would say: we don’t want to serve with these people’ – Craig Jones, the sailor who came out and changed the navy

The ban on gay people serving in the military meant the lieutenant commander spent a decade fearing imprisonment. As soon as it was lifted he insisted on speaking out – whatever the cost

It was towards the end of his interview for a place at the prestigious Britannia Royal Naval College that Craig Jones was asked if he had ever had contact with homosexuals. No, he said, he had never knowingly met a homosexual in his life. Then, for good measure, “I said something like: ‘If I saw anybody who was gay, I’d walk in the opposite direction.’” He looks ashamed. “I was only young,” he says. Back in 1987, there was a ban on gay, bisexual and trans people joining Britain’s armed forces.

Jones, then 20, was telling the naval officers what they wanted to hear. But he was also telling the truth. He had no sexual experience, had never been in a relationship and was an unworldly, small-town Yorkshire lad. About to finish a degree in economics at Portsmouth polytechnic, he had only one ambition: to join the navy as an officer. Jones impressed the interview board and won a place on an elite fast-tracking course, which he deferred for a year.

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