Wartime "****s" caused diplomatic waves (external - login to view)
By Gideon Long
Tue Nov 1, 2005
LONDON (Reuters) - London's "young ****s" wreaked such havoc among U.S. troops during World War Two that the British government feared Anglo-American relations would suffer, files released Tuesday showed.
Thousands of prostitutes and "good-time girls" were drawn to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square in search of young American men in uniform.
They took advantage of blackouts, which plunged London into darkness during Nazi night air attacks, to evade the police.
The government was so concerned by the problem that it asked the Metropolitan Police to write a report on it in 1942.
The report described how prostitutes working in upmarket Mayfair tended to be French and caused few problems while those around Piccadilly Circus were "a lower type of prostitute, quite indiscriminate in their choice of client."
By early 1943, with thousands of U.S. soldiers pouring in to Britain ahead of the allied invasion of Europe, the Foreign Office was growing increasingly worried.
"Our attention has been drawn to the scale on which the American troops are subjected to accosting by prostitutes and we are beginning to be apprehensive about the long-term effect it may have on Anglo-American relations," Junior Foreign Office Minister Richard Law wrote in a letter to the police.
"If American soldiers contract venereal disease while in this country, they and their relatives in the United States will not think kindly of us after the war."
The government organized a conference to address the issue and mulled a ban on women in certain notorious London streets, according to the police files, which have been secret for 50 years but have now been released by the National Archive.
Britain was worried the Nazis would use the issue to undermine morale by goading British soldiers into believing their wives were cheating on them.
Admiral Sir Edward Evans, head of London's Civil Defense unit, wrote to the police in September 1943 to complain that "Leicester Square at night is the resort of the worst type of women and girls..."
"Of course the American soldiers are encouraged by these young ****s, many of whom should be serving in the forces," he fumed. "At night the square, with its garden, is apparently given over to vicious debauchery."
The police and many government officials played down the issue, saying it was nothing new.
One old-timer at the Home Office recalled the streets and brothels of Paris during World War One.
"London at the moment is by comparison a Sunday school," he wrote.
Always some Bible bangers worrying about the morality of young men whom they plan to send out to kill or be killed in a war they have approved.
Thank God for the old timers in the Home Office.