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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Caught In The Act: Godfray & others (1942) part 1

The bulk of obscene publications trials involved photographs, so it is interesting to take a closer look at one of the bigger cases of the time.

In early January 1942, newspaper reports began appearing relating to three men who had been accused of conspiring together to do "certain unlawful acts injurious to the public morals by tending to corrupt the mind and destroy the love of decency, morality, and good order." This involved the publication and distribution of photographs and prints of an alleged indecent character and the prosecution was brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The three accused were Captain Herbert Terence Dillon Godfray (47), an Admiralty employee formerly of Rosemary Cottage, Kingdown, Box, who later lived at Weston, Bath; Geoffrey Noel Fabb (23), an engineering student of Coldharbour Road, Redland, Bristol; and Thomas Borrows (43), a fitter of Dennis Road, Coventry. They were remanded at Chippenham, Wiltshire, although allowed bail. 

A two-day hearing in late January was held before magistrates in Chippenham at which much evidence was heard. The three men were variously accused of a number offences, the main one being that they were jointly charged of conspiring against public morals. Godfrey was also committed on five charges of sending indecent photographs; two charges of publishing such photographs to Fabb and Borrows; and two of procuring indecent photographs.

There were two additional charges against Fabb of sending postal packets, two of publishing and two of procuring indecent photographs; and Borrow additionally faced two charges of publishing and two of procuring indecent photographs.

The three all pleaded not guilty and reserved their defence.

During the hearing, which occupied nearly ten hours, more than 1,000 photographs were produced, although it was not claimed by the prosecution that they were all indecent, Mr. G. R. Paling (prosecuting), saying that they might be merely artistic poses.

Paling revealed the background of the case: on 25 October 1941, police officers used a justices' warrant to search Godfray's house where they discovered a considerable number of photographic negatives and prints, many of which would be produced that the prosecution believed were clearly indecent. There were 1,000 prints and 62 negatives of models known as Hilda, Joan, Joyce, Marjorie and Eileen.

Godfray would advertise in the pages of The Naturist. The October 1941 issue had carried an advert for "Un-retouched nude studies, by sale or exchange; confidential." His contacts were stored on a card-index and a register which contained the names of 258 customers. There was a considerable quantity of correspondence, which indicated that his method of sending his wares was by post. Both Fabb and Borrows were amongst his correspondents.

In one of two letters, Fabb asked Godfray:
Have you any facilities for indoor photography at Bath? I have only a bedroom on the top floor as a dark-room, and it would not be much good as a studio. Also, I don't think my mother would like it if I had various models up there. I am enclosing one or two of my own photos of Joyce ... I hope we shall be able to co-operate with our photography, so that our separate collections are known to each other.
In another letter, Fabb said:
I think your idea of 6d. postcards is good ... Between us we might be able to produce quite a useful market.
These letters, submitted Paling, disclosed quite clearly that there was an endeavour to make an arrangement for Fabb and Godfray to work together to get models to pose for them and to sell their wares.

A day after the search, Godfray is reported to have told Det.-Sgt. Johnson at Chippenham:
I am an ardent nudist and sun-bather, and I began by taking artistic figures in the usual way. I aspired to better work in that particular field, and I have been taking such photographs for 17 years.
Police searched Fabb's house at Bristol on 30 October 1941 and found a book containing his record of sales of prints to customers including Godfray, who wrote to Fabb bemoaning the situation in Bath: "Although there are many girls in Bath, it does not seem possible to get into touch with them."

The raid on Borrows' house uncovered 403 prints and 92 letters from customers. Borrows told the police:
I never sold any of the photographs, but I admit I have distributed them to other people. I thought it was in order if they were not for public exhibition.
Indeed, there was no evidence that Borrows was selling photographs; rather, he was exchanging photographs of his wife for pictures of other women, men or women and men together.

Godfray and Fabb, on the other hand, were actively seeking models. One at least was not yet 17 years of age, and other models were obviously young women and whilst it might be argued (argued Mr. Paling) that the young women who posed were such that their morals could not be corrupted, to induce them to pose in the positions in the photographs was clearly an act injurious to public morals.

Amongst the numerous witnesses called was Joyce Moore, a 22-year-pold clerk of Croydon Road, Beddington, who was one of Fabb's models. Outdoor pictures of her were taken in September and October 1939 at Crockham Hill, Surrey, and indoor photos were taken in South Croydon where Fabb was living at the time. The two were going out together once a week and it was only later that Fabb asked if he could sell the prints. She agreed.

A 16-year-old clerk, Yvonne Chase, of Chiswick Road, London, told the court that on four occasions she had been photographed by Godfray at a studio in Fulham Palace Road. Asked who had arranged the poses, she replied: "Nobody arranged the positions, I fell into my own poses." Godfray told her that her face would not be seen in "close-ups" and whilst she was paid, it was not by Godfray.

Mrs. Joan Hilda Greet, 21, of Kensington, London, also said that she had posed twice for some photographs taken by Godfray before she was married and working as a professional model. These  were taken at a studio in Fulham Palace Road, for which she was paid a fee.

Godfrey, who was arrested at Lansdown on 3 January 1942, had three charges against him withdrawn as a witness was not available to give evidence. All three were committed for trial to be heard at Winchester Assize on 21 February 1942.


To be continued in our next.

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