Me at SixteenI raise the subject of sex and Finchden, firstly because it is commented on elsewhere and secondly because one might otherwise be left with the impression, when reading between the lines, that homosexuality was totally accepted or even encouraged at Finchden. This was not the case. The position was much more subtle.

Everyone understands that all young men are randy. Yet Finchden had no regulations concerning homosexuality. On the other hand, our male-only institutions such as the country’s boarding schools, armed services and youth organisations all tried to enforce a strict taboo backed up with severe penalties. Any sexual activity which took place under these circumstances was clandestine and secretive, often abusive, leading to guilt and denial.

In contrast, Finchden did not take a position. In fact, it could not do so and at the same time maintain its integrity with regard to its general ethos with regard to self-regulation.

One could argue that there would have had to have been some things that were beyond the pale even at Finchden. Well, there were – bullying was not tolerated; neither was violent behaviour or theft from each other. Of course, all of these things happened from time to time, but they were soon stamped on – not by GAL or his staff, but by the boys, themselves.

Nevertheless, homosexuality was not regulated in this way – the community took the view that it was harmless and inevitable and that was that. It was as if the Finchden community, intuitively distinguished between that which was truly damaging and that which, although may offend against common mores, was at least in the context of Finchden, benign.

And so it followed that this state of affairs produced a potentially powerful mix of desire and opportunity coupled with an ethos of “it’s ok if you want to”. And people often realised that they did want to and could do so without fear of being condemned.

It is hardly surprising that there was lots of sex at Finchden. All of it was consensual, most of it affectionate, none of it abusive. Some of it took the form of romantic friendships with a sexual dimension. Some of it was no more than mutual relief. There was very little if any sodomy. No sexual contact between the staff and the boys was allowed or tolerated.

Almost none of the people who had these experiences were in fact homosexual, and these types of experience usually ceased once they had left “to take their place in society”.

As for the boys like me: Well, I knew what I wanted long before I went to Finchden. And when I got there, I had a whale of a time. I was very young, willing and in demand and truly happy for the first time in my life.