He claims it was the start of a brutal campaign of abuse and humiliation by the RAF’s Special Investigations Branch
A judge is set to hear allegations that a gay RAF chef was tortured by investigators after asking for an HIV test.
Simon Hinchley-Robson was a 21-year-old cook at RAF Brawdy in Pembrokeshire in 1985 when he contracted glandular fever.
It was a time when TV screens were filled with murky Tombstone ads warning of the dangers of AIDS – and Simon felt he should get tested.
He said: “But the ward doctor got absolutely ballistic. He called me everything from a bloody pig to a dog.”
It was the beginning of a brutal campaign of abuse and humiliation by the RAF’s special investigation department.
They hit his head, spit on his face, and forced him to undergo 16 painful internal exams.
He said they told him, “Gays should all be put on one island and nuked.”
Simon, now 58, from Blackheath, south-east London, will be telling his story to former Master of the Rolls Lord Terence Etherton, 71.
As Britain’s first openly gay judge, he will lead the official inquiry into redress for the atrocities committed by the SIB.
That’s huge progress for a campaign the Sunday Mirror has been running with supporting charity Fighting with Pride to get compensation for 5,000 veterans jailed or released for their sexuality. Simon was transferred to a civilian hospital for glandular fever but was arrested on his return to base.
He was told that asking for the test was an admission that he was gay, which was a criminal offense in the armed forces until 2000. The discriminatory rule was why ex-soldier Dame Kelly Holmes kept her sexuality a secret for more than 30 years – as she revealed to the Sunday Mirror when he came out as gay last week.
Simon went through “the most horrific and horrible experience”. He said: “I was taken to an interrogation room and for four days I was denied food, sleep and only small amounts of water.”
At every shift change every four hours, he had severe internal examinations under the pretext of looking for drugs.
He said: “The more times they did it, the more I bled. I was taken to my quarters in handcuffs and the SIB searched all my belongings and personal letters.
“My mattress was slashed and the mail was taken away. They said I was most likely being blackmailed into revealing defense secrets. I said I’m a chef. I didn’t have access to secrets unless someone wanted my lasagna recipe. More internal searches ensued and I’m sure it was for her sadistic gratification. I was treated like a terrorist. I’ve been spat on, hit, examined by people no better than animals, all for admitting I was gay.”
Simon agreed to a dishonorable discharge to avoid 18 months in prison. On leaving RAF Brawdy, the Warrant Officer tore the Senior Aircraftman’s rank insignia from his uniform and told him he was a disgrace to the RAF.
He became a host but has since suffered flashbacks. Now Simon wants £320,000 in back pension payments, which he would have received if he had served the full 22 years he signed up for – and an apology.
He had to give up his pub in 2018 due to dying nerve endings and a degenerative spinal disease. Now he has prostate cancer.
His Labor MP Clive Efford said: “It was torture for being gay. He was suicidal. Others took their own lives.”
Anneliese Dodds, head of labor equality, said: “I salute the Sunday Mirror for their tireless campaign.”
Caroline Paige, Co-CEO of FWP, said, “We will do everything we can to ensure the voices of LGBT+ veterans are heard.”
Women’s Royal Army Corps veteran Sharon Hudson said: “Being discharged because of my sexuality has affected my mental health. I lied to my family for 40 years because I was ashamed.”
Lord Etherton said: “This review provides an opportunity for veterans to share their testimonies in a safe environment.”
And Veterans Affairs Minister Leo Docherty said, “The historic ban was wrong and we recognize that.”
The mirror’s fight for fairness
The Sunday Mirror has spearheaded the campaign for justice for LGBT+ veterans and has joined forces with Fighting with Pride to demand pardons, the return of confiscated medals and an apology from the Prime Minister.
Ever since former Minister Johnny Mercer was recruited into our campaign, veterans have been able to get medals back.
And a contingent was allowed to lay a wreath at the London Cenotaph. Home Secretary Priti Patel says pardons will follow so convictions can be overturned. And Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace is considering compensation.
We say they should be compensated for lost earnings and pensions. Our fight goes on.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/judge-hear-claims-gay-raf-27327397 Hearing judge alleges a gay RAF chef was tortured after asking for an HIV test