David Kelsey joined the Army at 16, but after just seven years his military career was cut short because of the ban on LGBT+ personnel serving in the Armed Forces.
David joined the Army in 1976 and served with the Royal Engineers in Germany and Northern Ireland.
“All I ever wanted to do was join the Army. It was my sole ambition.”
Whilst working in Germany in 1983 he was reported by a former colleague for being gay.
“I was seeing a lad in Germany and another ex-soldier got to find out about it,” says David.
LGBTQ+ & Allies Branch
“He had also been kicked out the Army for being gay previously, and he decided that he was going to go and tell.”
Forced to leave
After being reported David was arrested at work, court-martialled and discharged with disgrace for being gay.
I was devastated because it was like my whole career down the drain, just because I didn't conform
“What really bothered me was, I was okay to go and serve in Northern Ireland, but it wasn't okay for me to be gay.
“I did break the rules. It was my own fault. But it doesn't make it right.”
After leaving the military, David’s conviction made it difficult to find a new job.
“I tried to join the Police but they turned me down because I'd had the conviction in the Army for being gay,” he explains.
“It was there on my record for everyone to see.”
Championing the armed forces
David also had his military medals taken away but is currently fighting to get them back.
“It would be really nice, and I would be happy and proud to get to wear them again,” he says.
“We’ve all fought, we all went on the front line and if we’re good enough for that then we should be good enough to wear our medals.”
As a local councillor and Deputy Mayor of Bournemouth, David is passionate about supporting the Armed Forces community and works as an Armed Forces Champion, as well as volunteering for the Poppy Appeal.
“I sit on the South West Regional Board down here trying to offer veterans help wherever we can with anything from anxiety through to housing and health problems.
“We have members of RBL on our covenant board down here as well which helps us support veterans in any way we can.”