Image of two men kissingEssays on Gay History and Literature by Rictor Norton

I'll Be With You Tonight

The Gay Love Letters of Ralph Hall to Montague Glover

Excerpts from My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries, Edited by Rictor Norton

Montague Charles Glover (1898–1983), an officer from the middle classes, was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during World War I, and worked as an architect during most of his life, often for the government. He had many affairs with builders, road-workers, dockers, labourers, young military men and "renters" in Trafalgar Square, but for fifty years lived with a cheerful working-class lad from London's East End, Ralph Hall (1913–1987), fifteen years younger than he, whom he met around 1930. Monty was a keen and skilful photographer, and every year of his and Ralph's life is documented in loving snapshots. Ralph was poorly educated, and absolutely devoted to Monty. He read Agatha Christie thrillers, collected British Empire stamps, and posed for Monty in fields of corn like a pastoral faun, for he was strikingly good looking. Ralph was drafted into the Royal Air Force in 1940, and for four years he sent Monty hundreds of love letters – the same sort of letters that countless boys sent to their sweethearts back home to bolster their spirits during the war. There are also numerous photographs of Monty's other tricks, especially during the 1930s, dressed in military uniforms and boxing shorts from Monty's closet, powerfully fetishistic set-pieces. He had a flat in London near the barracks, but he and Ralph led a seemingly idyllic life in Little Windovers, the house Monty had designed and built in the village of Balsall Heath in Warwickshire. Monty retired in 1953 and he and Ralph lived in tranquil domestic bliss at Little Windovers for another thirty years until his death in 1983. When Ralph died in 1987, the house and contents were put up for sale by his relatives, and Monty's unique "gay family album" recording the life of an ordinary gay couple in the 1940s1970s – digging in the garden, enjoying a cup of tea in bed and his diaries, letters, photographic negatives and scrapbooks of "found" homoerotic images from newspapers and magazines, were discovered in two cardboard boxes in the local auction rooms by James Gardiner, a collector of visual ephemera, and partially published in 1992.

Photograph of Ralph Hall


RAF Waddington
10 November 1940

My dear,
          We had a raid the other night. It was about an hour raid and they did no damage, my dear. They put about twenty bombs on the turnips in the field at the back of the block and the place seem to lift off the ground and the next morning we had another one but we brought it down my dear, I did not go out as they did not call us out. The cake has just arrived my darling and it is lovely and I will be able to have some for tea on sunday. I have been on three night running this week my dear and I have just been told that I am on again tonight. Well it all is a lifetime my dear. The lads all love our cake my Darling, we had some for tea my dear.
          I will be with you tonight Darling
                    Love Ralph

20 November 1940

My dear Monty
          I have just got your letter telling me about the raid at Coventry and I was glad to hear that it is allright at home. With your letters dear you are always speaking to me and I read them over and over again my dear. The lads say that they think we are going out soon, one just said that and came in dear. So you say you went round the site with me and I can see you now walking round. I go back all over the days we had at Richmond and Esher and Drunken Bidford and Leamington along the river. Do you remember the old days when we first started darling. I went back all over it again last night. What a time we had in them days and I am sorry to say I am crying I cannot hold it back no more my Darling. I love you my old Darling. I do miss you ever such a lot my dear as you know my dear. I hope this finds you in good health my dear and all the rest at home. I get over to you as soon as I can my Darling. I love you Monty. Lots of love to my old Darling Monty. I miss you. Goodnight dear,
                    Ralph xxxxxxx a ring of them for you.

1 December 1940

My dear Monty,
          I have just got your letter and what a thrill it gave me to hear from you my dear. I sent one to Little Windovers on Saturday on the off chance that you were there my dear. I hope you get it my dear. Well Monty I have not got much to say about the lads here my dear. They all go out after the cows that are down here. Its all women down here my dear I go out on my own and think of the lads my dear. I went up to the Blackpool Tower my dear and it was grand and I thought of you my dear. Do I remember? I remember all the good times we had too. I will never forget my darling, I hope to see you on Friday my dear. We are getting out. I will let you know my dear. Lots of love MY DARLING
                    Ralph to Monty XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

9 May 1941

My darling,
          How can you forgive me for forgetting your birthday you know I wish you all the best in the world my darling. I thought it was the 12 of this month darling. But I tell you the truth darling I would have forgotten as I have been troubled by this going overseas. Darling you don't know how I miss you darling. I might as well tell you the truth. I have been letting myself go and I have been crying over you Darling and calling out for you. The lads say who is Monty? to me and I say what do you mean and they say I was calling out for you in my drunkenness Darling. You old darling I am going to get drunk again tonight too darling and I am with you down at the Bear in Esher darling and please forgive me darling for what I have done darling and forgot your birthday darling, you know I love you darling ALWAYS DARLING Goodnight my love and I will be with you for ever and ever you old Darling and the one and only

[from aboard ship,
c. October 1941]

My darling,
          I wish you could have seen me off but it was impossible to. I hope you got my telegram allright and the last letter. We are passing a lot of islands you and I done in the crosswords my dear. A lot of the lads are feeling sick and I feel sorry for them my dear. . . . On the night I sent the telegram I was off the next morning, and off like a shot as they say. And I was thinking of you my dear in your office and at home and all the rest my darling. The wrist watch has gone again my dear, it just starts when it likes every hour, I dropped it. I am just bedding down for the night my darling and dont I just wish I was with you, old darling. I can see you lying there sweetheart. Goodnight darling XXXXX All the lads are guessing where we are going darling. I only know I am going away from the man I love, the one and only you old darling. But I know I will come back darling to you, and it will only be a dream darling . . .

January 1942

          I have just come back from the Blue, me and the driver went on an important bit of work and then I went over to the mail centre you old darling. The letters you sent on Oct 10 and 15 have arrived and I cried as I was reading them darling. So you went to Leaemington and I bet it took you back some years, it did me Monty. I love you darling and miss you so much I am dry eyed. Try and do something up your end darling this place is terrible. It is not safe to go out at night at all. Some of the lads that do, do not come back at all, thats what it is like darling. . . . You say what an experience all this is for me darling and I hope I never have it again . . .
          All my love darling XXXXXXXX

Hut 192 Heliopolis
23 March 1942

          I would love to be in the garden today. It is just like English spring and I know what it is like down your end, the lads tell me all the news when they come out. The garden should be looking nice when this reaches you my Sweetheart. My work is just finished for today and it is 9 o'clock the 20 march and it is just started to rain and it is very cold at night. I hope you are in good health my darling and all at home and I wish I was coming on the boat to you darling. I miss you so much Monty xxxxx you old sweetheart of mine. . . .

18 December 1942

Hallo Darling,
. . . You dont know how much I miss you . . . I kiss the photo every night. so you are in bed with me after all. I would rather have you with me. I was up the blue in the desert for a week and was it hell. Just sand and more sand. Lets get back to the old days my dear as soon as this war is over. . . . Cairo is just a smell. I cant think of a good thing to say about it at all so lets get home. . . .

19 December 1942

          I have not had a letter from you yet and the lads that came out here with me have had a lot. I hope everything is all right at home. Look after yourself darling and try to do something for me, you know what I mean my darling. Think of me Monty, You are the only one that ever gave me a frill and you still do. Darling I can see me and you on the bed now you old darling and well be there again dont worry my darling. It is six days before Xmas. Just think of me in the desert with the lads on guard. You are allways in my thoughts and I know you will think better of me when this war is over you old darling. Dont I wish I was there with you now darling. I am feeling so strong tonight my sweet. I would love you all night darling.
          I am in the guardroom waiting to do my 4th guard my dear and I can see you all at home round the table for Xmas and I know you will miss me darling. This is a XMASxxxxxGIFT from your one and only darling. You dont know how much I miss you Monty. I love you darling so think good of me my sweethart.
          All my love and a merry Xmas
          and a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO THEM ALL

[Telegram, December 1942]




21 September 1945

Hallo Monty,
          I hope this finds you in the best of health and the garden looking at its best. I am coming home. I am at the camp waiting for the boat and this is 20 September. I hope you recieved my telegram ok. I think I will be seeing you about the end of october my darling but I cant say for sure. I am so excited about it all I cannot really believe it all. . . .
          Goodnight my sweethart look after yourself Monty all my love to the one and only from Ralph to Monty you old darling mine goodnight. Good night Monty you old DARLING MINE

Copyright © 1997, 1998 by Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited.
SOURCE: Reprinted by permission of the publishers from A Class Apart by James Gardiner, published by Serpent's Tail, London and New York, 1992.

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