Michael Winner’s regret at avoiding national service by pretending to be gay
Michael Winner, whose death has been announced today, previously wrote in his autobiography of his regret at avoiding National Service by falsely claiming to be gay.
In his 2005 autobiography ‘Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts’, the director and food critic said when a colonel asked how long he had experienced same-sex urges, Winner replied: “About three months.”
Winner reminisced: “My Cambridge days were ending. The government had not yet terminated National Service. I’d have to go into the Army. This seemed a waste of time and of no benefit to the nation. The only fighting was in Malaysia where we were attempting to keep the local population slaves to the British Empire. This didn’t strike me as a noble cause. There were tens of thousands of National Servicemen with nothing to do. At Catterick Camp they were painting coal white in order to give the soldiers activity. My father still refused to lend me money to buy myself out! I then did something, which in retrospect I deeply regret.”
Winner went on to describe how he then went to visit a psychiatrist, who worked in the same building as celebrity sisters Joan and Jackie Collins, he told the psychiatrist: “’I think I’m homosexual [Untrue].’ The psychiatrist replied, ‘Have you had a homosexual experience? [Winner said]. “‘No. But I want to.’ The sessions cost three guineas each. That’s just over £3.”
The playwright went on to say of the experience: “On my fourth visit Dr Grant opened his diary and said, ‘We’ll have to book you in three times a week as you’re leaving Cambridge soon.’ I said. ‘I’d love to, but I’m afraid I have to go in the Army.’ Dr Grant said. ‘You don’t want to go in the Army do you?’ I said. ‘No.’ Dr Grant stood up and said. ‘Wait there.’ He went into a room at the back where his secretary was, and I heard him talking. I heard the secretary typing. Dr Grant returned and handed me a letter. He said, ‘Show them that.’ A few days later I arrived for the Cambridge University Army Medical. I had a pee here. They felt my testicles there. I did the eye chart. It was the same routine I’d gone through at Shepherd’s Bush. I was holding my letter, wondering ‘What do I do with it?’ At the end of the examination, there was an old Colonel type sitting at a table. He looked up. ‘Well Winner.’ he said, ‘which of the services do you want to go into? ‘I held out my letter without saying anything.
“The Colonel read it. His eyes ﬂickered to me with utter contempt. He said. ‘How long have you been feeling like this?’ I said. ‘About three months.’ That was it. I was medically unﬁt for the Army. I’m really quite ashamed of myself. I don’t think it would have done any good my being in the Army. The chances of me having been sent to fight in Malaya were as near nil as possible and I didn’t want to kill Malaysians anyway. It was an improper thing to do. But in those days I was far less socially responsible than I am now. I can only apologise to the nation for being denied the opportunity of having me paint coal white in Catterick. I might have done an incredibly artistic job. Shortly thereafter National Service was abolished!”
In his autobiography, Winner revealed that he went to visit the psychiatrist three more times, and that eight years later, he asked Winner to consider putting on a play he had written.