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Undercover officers acting as 'agents provocateurs' would pose as gay men soliciting in public places. 'There were all-male dancing clubs and I would go to the theatre, to films. 'I would have four days in London and three days a week in Beaulieu, where I would have weekend parties. There would be shooting, fishing – all those sorts of activities.' But one of these weekend parties would prove to be his undoing.
The prevailing mood was one of barely concealed paranoia.'People can't understand it now,' says Lord Montagu. As someone said at the time, the skies over Chelsea were black with people burning their love letters.'London, with its lively post-war social scene, provided an exotic demi-monde of underground gay clubs where telephone numbers could be exchanged discreetly between like-minded men. In the summer of 1953, Lord Montagu offered Wildeblood the use of a beach hut near his country estate.
Wildeblood brought with him two young RAF servicemen, Edward Mc Nally and John Reynolds.
Now he is physically frail and has to lean heavily on a walking stick to shuffle across the parquet floor of his sitting room.His face is gaunt, the papery skin stretched too tightly over his cheekbones. Looking at him, it is hard to believe that for a period of time in the mid-Fifties, Lord Montagu was one of the most notorious public figures of his generation.Although his background had been unremittingly conventional for a man with his aristocratic standing – Eton, then Oxford and a spell in the Grenadier Guards – he became a self-confessed bohemian who enjoyed affairs with both men and women.'I am bisexual,' he says. I remember feeling that I didn't have to apologise to anybody.This is the first time and I feel very nervous about it.I could have done, I got offers of money from the Press to speak at the time. I never said anything.'I didn't want to be a professional convict, like Lord Brocket or Lord Archer or [Jonathan] Aitken, who write about their experiences in prison as soon as they're let out. If you ever want to recover yourself in the public's eye, you've got to do something else, you've got to achieve something.'Indeed, for more than 50 years, Lord Montagu has been better known as the founder of the National Motor Museum, set up in the grounds of his stately home, Palace House in Beaulieu, Hampshire.
But while much of Lord Montagu's personal bitterness has faded, it is clear that the passing of five decades has not lessened his extreme emotional distress. The Montagu case of 1954 was a cause celebre that horrifed the Establishment and changed the course of British history.