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The Wombourne 12


Burton Mail – 18th Dec 1986

Evening Sentinel 18 Dec 1986

Evening Sentinel – 18th Dec 1986

In December 1986 the Conservative leader of South Staffordshire Council, William Brownhill, made headline news by suggesting at a Council meeting that 90% of homosexuals should be gassed to halt the spread of AIDS. Labour Councillor Jack Greenaway agreed with him saying that “every one of us here will agree with what has been said”. The only dissenting voice was Liberal councillor John Chambers who pointed out that AIDS was originally a heterosexual disease originating in Africa, and said “there is little point in queerbashing other than making ourselves feel better”.

The extraordinary outburst by Councillor Brownhill followed the screening of a film on HIV/AIDS at the Council meeting. It is hard to believe in our modern age that anyone in public office would use the kind of language that is reported in the article below. We can only wonder whether Councillor Brown realised that his call to gas gays had parallels with the Nazi extermination of homosexuals in the second world war.

Wolverhampton Express and Star – 17th Dec 1986

The public outrage that followed led to a demonstration outside the councillors home on the following Sunday, 21st December. Twelve young protesters were arrested by the police and detained for two weeks over the Christmas Period. They became known as The Wombourne 12.

Wolverhampton Express and Star – 22nd Dec 1986

On 19th February 1987 The Guardian reported that all charges against the 12 had been dropped. Some of the group later received compensation for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment.


A further demonstration took place later in February in which 300 protesters marched through the small village of Wombourne in South Staffordshire. By the time this demonstration took place the charges had already been dropped.

The flyer calls for action at a demonstration on Feb 23rd 1987 (reproduced from a Twitter post linked to the LGBT archives at The Bishopsgate Institute)

The photo of the demonstration  is reproduced from a page hosted by Birmingham LGBT Community Trust

The protest banner shows the “score” of “Wombourne 12, Police Nil”.

Copyright Notice

The newspaper cuttings featured here have been compiled by the posts author, Andrew Colclough, from online archives as part of his personal research into local LGBT+ history. Copyright belongs to the newspapers that published the articles. The news cuttings have been shared here by this post’s author, Andrew Colclough, on the basis of fair personal/non commercial use.

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