A VETERAN has revealed the moment she was kicked out of the Navy for being a lesbian after her ‘friend’ reported her - as the UK marks 20 years since the ban on homosexuality was lifted.

Emma Riley, 47, from West Sussex, served from 1990 to 1993 as a naval radio operator but was arrested and discharged for being a lesbian.

The ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people serving in the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force was repealed in 2000, but people suspected of being LGB in the armed forces before that time were subject to a dishonourable discharge.

Ms Riley, who is a lesbian, said: “Joining the Navy was what my vocation was and I thought at the time that I could, and should, push down that part of my personality and serve my country instead because I wasn’t very accepting of myself.”

However, her service came to an end when Ms Riley was reported for being a lesbian by a colleague.

She said: “I thought the person I told was my friend and at the time I told them seemed to be very supportive and OK with it and the next morning I got woken up at 6am and told to ‘get up, get dressed and go downstairs, you’re under arrest’.”

Ms Riley had been reported to the Navy’s special investigation branch and had her belongings searched and confiscated, including a video of Julian Clary.

She was subjected to a two and a half month ‘relentless’ investigation where officers tried to find other LGB people in the Navy.

“They couldn’t get anyone else from me but they certainly got me,” she said.

“Effectively my entire map of the world had to be rewritten. It was all taken away and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Ms Riley was one of the handful of LGB ex-service people who brought her case against the Ministry of Defence to the European Court of Human Rights.

A damning judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in September 1999 said the policy was a “grave interference” in people’s private lives.

Forces guidelines issued in 1994 said that being gay was “incompatible with service in the armed forces”.

However, both Mr Skingle and Ms Riley said the reality was the complete opposite.

Ms Riley said: “You cannot be effective in any part of your life if you are hiding part of your life.”

The ban being lifted was a “bittersweet” moment for Ms Riley, who had wanted to join the Navy since her early teens.

“It was wonderful that finally the UK had been forced to lift that ban to allow thousands of perfectly competent patriotic people to be able to serve their country but bitter because it was too late for me,” she said.

On Thursday Johnny Mercer, Minister for Defence, People and Veterans, apologised to a group of veterans for the harm caused by the policy.

The MoD now has an LGBTQ+ group within its rank to support service personnel and the Royal British Legion boasts its own LGBTQ+ & Allies branch, which celebrates its first anniversary on Sunday.