Peter Wildeblood (19 May 1923 – 14 November 1999) was an Anglo-Canadian journalist, novelist, playwright and gay rights campaigner. He was one of the first men in the UK to publicly declare his homosexuality.
Peter Wildeblood was born in Alassio, on the Italian Riviera, in 1923. He was the only child of Henry Seddon Wildeblood (b. 1863), a retired engineer from the Indian Public Works Department, and his much younger second wife, Winifred Isabel, née Evans, the daughter of a sheep rancher in Argentina. He was brought up in his parents' cottage near Ashdown Forest. His mother was considerably younger than his father, and Wildeblood later wondered if the fact had affected his development.
Wildeblood won a scholarship to Radley College and then went up to Trinity College, Oxford in 1941, but dropped out after ten days because of ill health. Soon afterwards he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and trained as a pilot in Southern Rhodesia. However, after a series of crashes he was grounded and instead became an RAF meteorologist, remaining in Southern Rhodesia for the rest of the War. After demobilisation, he resumed his place at Trinity College where he gravitated towards a homosexual circle in the theatre and arts.
After Oxford Wildeblood turned to journalism, writing for the Daily Mail's regional office in Leeds, then in Fleet Street itself, first as the royal correspondent, then as its diplomatic correspondent. At this time Wildeblood began a passionate affair with an RAF corporal called Edward McNally and wrote him a series of passionate love letters. It was these letters which proved a crucial part of the evidence leading to Wildeblood's later conviction for conspiracy to incite acts of gross indecency.
In the summer of 1953, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu had offered Wildeblood the use of a beach hut near his country estate. Wildeblood brought with him two young RAF servicemen, his lover Edward McNally and John Reynolds. The foursome were joined by Montagu's cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers. At the subsequent trial the two airmen turned Queen's Evidence, and claimed there had been dancing and 'abandoned behaviour' at the gathering. Wildeblood said it had in fact been 'extremely dull'. Montagu claims that it was all remarkably innocent, saying: 'We had some drinks, we danced, we kissed, that's all.'
Arrested on 9 January 1954, in March of that year Wildeblood was brought before the British courts charged with 'conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons' (or 'buggery'). Wildeblood was charged along with Lord Montagu and Michael Pitt-Rivers, and during the course of the trial he admitted his homosexuality to the court. Montagu received a 12 months sentence, while Wildeblood and Pitt-Rivers were sentenced to 18 months in prison as a result of these and other charges. The result of the trial led to an inquiry resulting in the Wolfenden Report, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Wildeblood's testimony to the Wolfenden committee was influential on its recommendations.
He published a book on the case, Against the Law, in 1955, an account which detailed his experiences at the hands of the law and the British establishment, brought to light the appalling conditions in Wormwood Scrubs, and encouraged campaigns for prison—and homosexual—reform. C. H. Rolph wrote in the New Statesman that it was "the noblest, and wittiest, and most appalling prison book of them all". To Wildeblood, "it was merely part of the story which had been implicit in me from the day when I was born".
Mr. Wildeblood's account of his experiences in his book, Against the Law, (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1955 and 1999) prompted debates in both houses of Parliament and led to the establishment of a government panel called the Wolfenden Committee to review the law dealing with male homosexual practices and female prostitution; lesbianism had never been illegal in Britain. In 1957, the committee recommended the decriminalization of private homosexual acts between consenting adults over age 21, and suggested that prostitution, which was not illegal, be allowed to continue. But it was not until 10 years later that the recommendations were made into law.
He wrote a second book on the subject of homosexuality the following year, propelled, he said in the first chapter, by the strong response to Against the Law from people who contacted him directly to say how grateful they were for bringing the subject into the open. A Way of Life included twelve essays describing different lives lived with homosexuality among people with whom he had come in contact. The essays served further to normalise homosexuality and reveal its then still hidden existence in all walks of life.
After the trial and his subsequent imprisonment, Wildeblood became a television producer and writer and was involved in a number of productions (particularly for Granada Television and then CBC Toronto) throughout the 1960s and 70s. Wildeblood wrote the book and lyrics, to Peter Greenwell's music, for the London musical The Crooked Mile, an avant-garde piece of 1959, set in the Soho underworld. He also chose to campaign publicly for the rights of gays by testifying before the Wolfenden Committee and the House of Lords.
Wildeblood moved to Canada, becoming a citizen of the country in the 1980s. In 1994, he suffered a stroke which left him speechless and a quadriplegic. He died in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1999.
- Matthew Parris, 'Wildeblood, Peter (1923–1999)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 21 June 2010
- William H, Honan "Peter Wildeblood, 76, Writer Who Fought Britain's Laws Against Homosexuality", New York Times, 21 November 1999
-  Obituary: Peter Wildeblood in The Independent 25 November 1999
-  'Lord Montagu on the court case which ended the legal persecution of homosexuals' Daily Mail 17 July 2007
- Peter Wildeblood Against the Law, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1999 pp.50–52
- "Lord Montagu of Beaulieu admits he is bisexual". This is Hampshire. 16 July 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- Peter Wildeblood, A Way of Life, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1956
- "Peter Wildeblood". IMDB. Retrieved 17 June 2008.
- Video on YouTube