In 1942, the Welsh town of Abergavenny was scandalised by disclosures after the arrest of over twenty youths and men on charges relating to homosexual activity and corrupting boys. George Rowe, the 40-year-old manager of Abergavenny’s Coliseum cinema was at the centre of a Police enquiry after one of the page-boys complained about being molested. The boy’s complaint turned into a witch-hunt of ‘queers’ across Britain revealing a oddball mix of abused and abusers; a farmer, a clerk, two chefs, a fireman, several serving soldiers, a hairdresser, an actor and others were arrested and brought back to Abergavenny, where almost all the offences were committed.
Before the case reached a Judge at Monmouthshire Assizes, three men attempted suicide, one young man succeeded in taking his own life. In the years that followed rumours persisted that several people had got away scot-free, including one notable public figure. Others went on the run to escape capture and disgrace, since all homosexuality was illegal in Britain until the changes started by the Sexual Offences Act, 1967.
William Cross the biographer of Almina, Countess of Carnarvon, and of salacious tales about the Morgans of Tredegar House, Newport, South Wales, is no stranger to controversial histories. Cross examines the facts in the Abergavenny case and sets out details from contemporary newspapers including closed files at National Archives, now released under the Freedom of Information Act. Here for the first time is the unvarnished truth, the background, the preliminary proceedings, the trial and the aftermath of a grisly, but sad tale from Abergavenny’s past that some would prefer to see buried forever.