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Gay History, Gay Celebrities, Gay Icons

Gay History celebrates the lives of famous gay men, gay celebrities and gay icons from the worlds of Film/TV, Art, Design, Music, Literature, Business and Politics. 200+ Intimate Profiles - Tchaikovsky to George Michael, Oscar Wilde to Truman Capote, Salvador Dali to David Hockney, Yves St Laurent to Gianni Versace, Rock Hudson to Stephen Fry to name but a few - they form a vast and exciting part of gay history.
Rupert Croft-Cooke (Leo Bruce)

Life Span: Born 20th June 1903, Edenbridge; Died 10th June 1979, Bournemouth, UK

Star Sign: Gemini
Famous As: British writer and playwright

Background: Croft-Cooke's parents were Lucy and Hubert Bruce Cooke. His father worked for the London Stock Exchange. He went to Tonbridge School and Wellington College (later to become Wrekin College). At 17 he moved to France and then at 19 he moved to Argentina which he wrote about in his travel book The World is Young. He was the founder of the weekly La Estrella which he edited in Argentina from 1923 to 1924.

Career: Croft-Cooke was an antiquarian bookseller from 1929 to 1931.At 27 he went to live in Germany and then in 1931 he moved to Switzerland and he became a lecturer at the English Institute Montana, Zugerberg. At 29 he spent a year in Spain. In 1940 he joined the Intelligence Corps serving in the Madagascar campaign and was in Queen Alexandra's Own Regiment and the Gurkha Rifles.
Croft-Cooke became a captain (as Field Security Officer) in 1944. In 1945 he was an instructor at the Intelligence School at Karachi. From 1947 to 1953 he was a book critic for The Sketch.
He wrote over 80 books covering a variety of subjects. A number were autobiographical, with one book often covering just a few years of his life. Some were about circuses and gypsy life, and some were about food and drink.. He also wrote crime and detective stories, mostly under the pseudonym Leo Bruce. As Leo Bruce he created two series of novels. One series had the main character Sergeant William Beef, a village policeman. The other series had the main character Carolus Deene, a school history teacher.

Friends & Relationships: In 1943 Croft-Cooke was posted to Bombay and he soon realised that life in the ranks there was not going to be comfortable so he applied for a commission. He was posted to an Officers' Training School in the small town of Belgaum. At one of the town's two cinemas that showed English films a 16-year-old Indian called Joseph Sussainathan served soft drinks behind the bar. He attached himself to Rupert Croft-Cooke and decided that he would follow him wherever he went. Joseph Sussainathan first became a civilian clerk in Rupert Croft-Cooke's Field Security Section after following him to Delhi. In the evenings he took classes in shorthand and typing with the aim of becoming Rupert Croft-Cooke's secretary when he went back with him to Britain.
In 1951 he moved into a small Georgian house in the Sussex village of Ticehurst and he spent some time restoring the house to its former unembellished simplicity. His Indian secretary , Joseph Alexander (previously Sussainathan) also lived in the house. The book The Life for Me is a description of life at the house and includes a number of photographs. It was at this house that the two Royal Navy cooks Harold Altoft and Ronald Dennis spent a weekend. It was also here where police came to arrest Rupert Croft-Cooke and Joseph Alexander at two o'clock on a Sunday morning. The charge was that they had each committed an act of gross indecency with another male person. Altoft and Dennis were named on the warrant.
The subsequent trial that started on 8th. October 1953 brought Rupert Croft-Cooke to public notice. He was defended by 'Khaki' Roberts who was to be the prosecution counsel at the magistrates court in the Montagu/Pitt-Rivers/Wildeblood Case a few weeks later.

"In England most people with any detached understanding of the matter consider that archaic laws against homosexuality, which make illegal the sexual association of two adult men in the privacy of a house, should long since have been abolished. But whether legal or illegal homosexuality is held in general dis-esteem, and since mud always sticks, I realized, not without some amusement, that even after the charges had been thrown out I should never escape from the reputation of a homosexual. This did not greatly disturb me, but it was a categorization which I should share, after all, with Shakespeare and Michelangelo and about a third of the writers and artists and musicians who have embellished human life, and with a rather greater proportion of the world's heroes in war, exploration, politics, and sport. But although for myself I should not mind, should even enjoy the irony of this, I could see that for my friends it must set a problem. They could either remain my friends and stand by me in this increasingly difficult time and take the risk of being associated with me in the public mind, or they could pass by me on the other side."
The Verdict of You All, (1955), page 29.

At the trial Compton Mackenzie and Patrick (Lord) Kinross took the stand as character witnesses. Notwithstanding this Rupert Croft-Cooke was sentenced to nine months in prison and Joseph Alexander was sentenced to three months in prison.
"I did not, as I have said, mind in the least being thought a homosexual. I might have been irritated by any suggestion that I was a homosexual of the inverted, effeminate type, but that would have been because it reflected on my manhood, not because it reflected on my morals."
The Verdict of You All, (1955), page 68.
In fact Rupert Croft-Cooke spent six months in prison from October 1953 to April 1954. The sentence began in Wormwood Scrubs but he was transferred to Brixton Prison in January 1954. While at Brixton he was visited by his old friend Tom Driberg. After a short time Rupert Croft-Cooke was returned to Wormwood Scrubs for the rest of his sentence. Three days after his release on 10th. April he had a visit from a stranger warning him that he could easily find himself charged and convicted again if he wrote about how his previous conviction had been brought about. Rupert Croft-Cooke went to Morocco and wrote about the events in The Verdict of You All, (1955). Joseph Alexander had been sentenced to three months prison at the end of the trial and had gone to Brixton.
Rupert Croft-Cooke wrote that he felt that his conviction and imprisonment did not hinder his career. Indeed he wrote that he was glad that it had all happened because he had learnt a great deal of the best and worst of human nature. "It has been the most immensely worthwhile experience in my life". (The Verdict of You All, chapter 14, section 7.) Nearly sixty of his books were published over the next two decades.
Rupert Croft-Cooke and Joseph Alexander left Britain in April 1954 and drove through France, ending up at Cadiz in Spain. In order to get in and out of Gibralter Rupert Croft-Cooke needed to get his visa renewed and had to take the circuitous route to Gibralter via Tangier. It was during the brief stopover in Tangier that he decided that this was where he would live. He and Joseph Alexander took up residence in Tangier in October 1954. Their life in Morocco with a commentary on the many other writers and artists that stayed or passed that way is described in The Tangerine House, (1956) and The Caves of Hercules, (1974). They stayed in Morocco until 1968 when the European colonial and cosmopolitan lifestyle was disappearing.

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