Lt Cdr Craig Jones MBE Royal Navy photo: Stephen Davidson
It was ten years ago this month that the ban was lifted on gay men and women serving in the British Armed Forces.
A year or two after that, I found myself at Leeds Castle in Kent invited by the Trustees for a weekend party to coincide with one of their celebrated outdoor concerts. And to any woman's delight there was already a handful of young naval officers in the Library when we arrived for drinks. They weren't in uniform but you can't have it all. One of them called Craig, who turned out to be particularly engaging and amusing, lost no time in directing my attention across the room to his partner. I was looking for a strappy dress, pashmina and sandals that would sink into the lawns but saw instead a gorgeous young man in a shirt and tie. That was Adam, a clinical psychologist. Flawless darling! Truly, it was a great moment to see that the enlightened new service culture could work like this.
The next day at lunch sitting on ivory-coloured spanish leather chairs in the glorious minty, sunny dining room, I was opposite Craig. I was trying to tell a story and as ever, stalled on a name. 'Oh damn, who's that fashion designer? The one in Paris, with a shaved head, lost a lot of weight lately.. erm.. uh..’ Craig came to my rescue and delivered this line with aplomb, ‘Alexander McQueen? … I can do warfare too, you know.’ Of course he could, he was a well-trained, talented officer with all the normal seagoing experience.
The dining room at Leeds Castle decorated by Stephane Boudin of the distinguished French firm Jansen.
So it turned out that Craig Jones, a Lt. Cdr, was the most senior openly gay serviceman. He worked tirelessly to support men and women of all three services in what could still be a difficult choice: to declare, or not to declare, their homosexuality. That contribution, together with his measured, tactful approach as a spokesman, was recognised by the award of an MBE. I joined him and Adam, family and chums for lunch at Claridges after the Buckingham Palace ceremony. There was a lot to celebrate.
At Times Online here you will find a very good article about how our armed forces have accepted and integrated this vital element of diversity. The new law caused a bit of consternation at first but that soon settled down. Moreover, fears that it might compromise operational effectiveness were totally unfounded.
Trooper Ben Rakestrow, right, sits at his bedspace with friends in transit accommodation at Camp Bastion Photo from Times Online
Craig left the Royal Navy in 2008 and is now on the board of Barclays Wealth as Head of Diversity