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uring the First World War, groups of hundreds of young men queued up in front of brothels. Some of them were aware that they would die on the front in the coming weeks so a few moments of pleasure would calm them down. This also caused a major outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases. Surprisingly enough, besides the many young men that were not even of age, many husbands were found to go to these brothels with the thought of being with a woman for the last time.

“Be constantly on guard against any excesses. During your new experience, you will be tempted by women or wine. You have to resist, ”the British Secretary of State, Lord Kitchener, said to the soldiers who were to be sent to the trenches of France during the First World War.

Herbert Kitchener was a Field Marshal in the British Royal Army who knew his soldiers better than anyone. Kitchener’s warnings were ignored by soldiers shortly after they reached the trenches. One of the soldiers was Frank Richards, who had been called to join the army shortly after the outbreak of war. One of the temptations for all the soldiers on the French front was legal brothels, also known as ‘maison toleree’. A report shows that 171,000 men benefited from sexual services in one of these brothels during the war.

Queuing up for Sex

After arriving in France, Frank Richards visited a brothel or “red light” as they were known within the British Army. When he returned, he discovered that in front of the brothel was “a group of 300 men, all waiting to enter the red light, most of them boys.” In 24 hours, the boys were to fight in the Battle of Loos.

The queues were extremely common at the entrance of each brothel. Private Amatt describes the scenes inside the brothel. “There were about 12 girls inside, almost naked, but with high-heeled shoes. They sat on the soldiers’ knees. If a man liked a girl, he would buy her a drink, and then the girl would take him to a room upstairs.”

Prostitutes from a brothel in France in 1916
Prostitutes from a brothel in France in 1916 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Some soldiers spent the last moments of their lives in that environment. Although young men had money to spend in brothels, married men were the ones who most often resorted to the services of prostitutes, claiming that they wanted to make up for the time they are not spending with their wives.

The highest rise in Sexually Transmitted Diseases

During the same period, sexually transmitted diseases spread, with more than 150,000 men hospitalized in France during the war because of this. Bottles of disinfectant lotions were introduced in November 1918, before this measure was implemented, experienced women examined men’s penises at the entrance.

Few men were interested in precautionary methods. Some men visited the brothels because they wanted to get syphilis or gonorrhea, the diseases would have kept them away from the battlefield for a long time. At certain times, sick prostitutes received more money than healthy ones. It is imperative to understand that in those times, the average man didn’t have much to do in order to take his mind off the atrocities that lived on the battlefield.

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